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Embrace the Trial – Part 3

Understanding the “WHO” Question – “Embracing ‘Who’ God is”

We are talking about the process of embracing our trials. In part one we discussed the “poem challenge”. In part 2 we sought to understand the “Why” question and why it is the unproductive question. We concluded that this question is often asked with a wrong perspective and theology. With this question, the focus is on the painful process instead of the praiseworthy purpose. The focus is on “what I don’t like” instead of “what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” The focus is on my self instead of on my God.

In considering this why question—“why is this happening to me?”—my prayer is that we would learn to embrace God’s answer to this question as we seek to understand the Biblical purpose for our suffering. My prayer, also, is to help us see that this natural question proves to be unproductive once we understand God’s purpose and His character. In part 2 we looked at the Biblical purpose for suffering, while here in part 3, we will consider God’s character. My hope is to encourage us to understand our need to move beyond the “why” question and learn to start with the right first question—“Who are You, Lord?”

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

The first question you and I need to ask is, “Who are You, Lord?” This question invites us to get to KNOW Him through this difficult time. This is what God “delights in.

“But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 9:24).

Have you ever read a passage of Scripture and been so struck by the faithful response of one of your Biblical heroes that you simply take it for granted? You think, “Well, that is just what Biblical heroes do, otherwise God wouldn’t have chosen them?” as if they have some quality about them that sets them apart on a higher level than we could ever achieve. 2 Corinthians 12 was one of those passages for me and Paul is one of those heroes. Paul writes about his prayer for God to remove his “thorn in the flesh” because he saw it as a “messenger of Satan” which would hinder his ministry of exalting Christ. In verse 9 we see how Christ responds as He eloquently says “No!”

“And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness’. …”

The sufficiency of God’s grace is an amazing reality. This is a stabilizing truth that when, in humility, we surrender to God’s way, His grace truly is all we need for it is more than enough. Consider 2 Corinthians 9:8, “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” (emphasis added).

But also notice how Paul responds to this answer: he says, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10)

Do you see how Paul responds to this negative answer to his prayer? Instead of reacting in anger because he doesn’t get his way, he rejoices. Let that sink in—He rejoices! He responds, Most gladly will I therefore glory in my infirmities, … I take pleasure in infirmities, …. How can anyone in their right mind respond this way? The simple answer is that he understood God’s providence and sovereignty in light of His goodness, love, righteousness, wisdom, power, etc.

In the old hymn, “God moves in a mysterious way,” William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) writes,

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace;
behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour;
the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flow’r
.”

Often we judge the situation based upon our “feeble sense” instead of judging based upon the truth of God’s character—Who He is. We often operate on faulty theology resulting in the wrong responses to our trials. God desires that we see His love for us in the trial and respond in worship by embracing the trial. He orchestrates the very details of the trial not to destroy us but in order to draw us closer to Him. This is a truth we often need to be reminded of as we journey through these “bitter” times. Yes, the process usually is often a “bitter taste” but God purposes to bring about a “sweet” and beautiful flower to His glory. In the aforementioned hymn, the writer states, “behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.” The truth behind this statement is that the lovingkindness of God is often cloaked in painful grace. But it’s not until we know Him that we begin to understand this powerful truth.

I believe that it is paramount for us to learn to rest in God’s providence and sovereignty. In His providence, He orchestrates all things while, at times, God also allows things to happen to us. In His sovereignty, He controls all things. The amazing reality that I am learning to embrace, is that God is always both planning and directing the very details of my trial. The very minute details are not overlooked by Him. This gives me great confidence and peace, only when I know other truths about Him.

The truth is that we often have two very different responses to our trials, even knowing these attributes of God. On the one hand, we can become angry with Him when we realize that He controls the very details of our trial yet He still allows us to go through the pain and suffering. Our focus is, “why me?” On the other hand, God’s providence and sovereignty bring great peace when we keep in mind that He is good in all He does. He is also loving and gracious as well as righteous in all things. He is all-wise, knowing all things as well as all-powerful, in that there is nothing that is too hard for Him. Because of a well-round Biblical understanding of God my soul can rest in Him. It is when I cherry-pick, slant in one way or another, or even forget key truths about God that I find my soul troubled.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed [fixed] on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” (Isaiah 26:3)

Most importantly, when I fail to intentionally fix my mind upon these stabilizing truths, and focus upon the storm that I am engulfed in, I begin to sink and feel like I am drowning. This is similar to Peter in Matthew 14:28-31 when he walked on water and focused on the crisis instead of Christ.

Keep in mind that any god that I put my trust in, short of the Biblically defined God, will be lacking in his ability to righteously and providentially rule over the very details of my trial. Therefore, he would be incapable of being the source of rest and peace through the trial.

“Be still [relax in perfect trust], and know that I am God.”  (Psalm 46:10a)

“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image [of Christ] from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The more I am still before Him, the more I will be changed to be like Him, because I am taking time to behold Him.

This was the apostle Paul’s mindset. His consuming passion was “That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death;” (Philippians 3:10).  He counted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus [his] Lord (v. 8). This is how he could take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions for Christ’s sake: (2 Corinthians 12:10a). He understood that in these trials, Christ would be displayed through his weakness, for when I am weak, then I am strong (v. 10b).

He had learned, in whatsoever state, therewith to be content (Philippians 4:11), because He knew his God—he was intimately acquainted with Who God is which allowed him to rest, with contentment, in any situation he found himself in. That is a powerful and stabilizing truth.

As you consider the trial you are in, the difficulty you are facing, or the reality of future trials, can you rest because you know Who God is? Do you have God’s kind of peace that “surpasses all understanding?” I urge you to drink deeply from the fountain of God’s Word. Get to know Him. Embrace Who He is and embrace the trial He has custom designed for you.

“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.”

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Is Christ Found In Me?

American Christianity has found itself in a state of apathy, resting in the wonderful truth of being “found in Christ.” Although to many, this truth seems to be more of a surface truth lacking the depth of transforming truth. This modern American Christianity, that we find ourselves surrounded by is consumed with a kind of faith that doesn’t stand out too much. It’s the kind of faith that is a convenient kind of “fire insurance” Christianity. One that states, “I have my ticket to heaven, yet in the name of Christian liberty, I can live any way that I want as long as the Bible doesn’t specifically say anything against it.”

The unfortunate reality is that many “Christians” fail to take the time to read God’s Word to even see if what they are doing in the name of Christian liberty is actually forbidden by God let alone trying to see if any Biblical principles apply. In a great way there tends to be little emphasis placed on these Biblical principles found in Scripture and their application to one’s life. The assumption is simply that God didn’t specifically say it so it must be okay. This has led to a kind of Christianity that is entertainment driven, seeker-friendly, Bible Lite, doctrinally weak, “feel good” Christianity. We may claim to “be found in Christ” but the question that we must be asking is, “Is Christ found in me?

Paul writes in Philippians 3:8-9, saying, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

The beautiful reality of being “found in Christ” is the salvational truth that when God looks upon us He sees the righteousness of His Son—He sees Christ. This great truth is that, by faith in the righteousness of Christ and His finished work on our behalf, Christ’s righteousness is placed on our account. This is the means by which we are brought into the family of God with the confident hope of eternal life with Him. This is a glorious truth!

On the other hand, we are called to be transformed by this salvational truth and therefore Christ is to be found in me. The Bible tells us, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). As a “new creature,” Christ will be found in me as other people see Christ in me. They will see Christ-likeness on display in my life. They will see the love of Christ in the way that I treat others. They will see Christ’s kind of peace (John 14:27 & 16:33)[1] as I go through the trials and tribulations of life. The will see Christ-likeness in the way that I strive to obey God through His Word, seeking to follow Christ’s example (John 6:38 & 14:31).[2] Ultimately, others will see the light of Christ in me and give glory to my “Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).[3]

So then, how can Christ be found in me? How can you and I keep from falling into this apathetic Christianity that seems to be all around us, almost consuming us? How can we row against the current of this culture of convenient Christianity—this culture that seems to be rushing further from genuineBiblical Christianity more like a raging river toward the destructive waterfalls ahead? How can we live a visible, genuine Christianity that is more than fire insurance but one that faithfully represents our Savior as we seek to be used as an instrument of God’s grace, rescuing others from the wrath that is to come? How can we live a life of loving Christianity whereby others see our love for our Lord and each other and in turn are encouraged and challenged to do the same?

I believe that the answer is seen in Paul’s mindset in verse 8 where he says, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” This “excellency of the knowledge of Christ” was Paul’s daily pursuit. His goal was this “excellency” or the surpassing greatness of being transformed by the “knowledge of Christ.” He wanted to be changed into Christ-likeness whereby having Christ consistently found in him.

Paul goes onto speak of this transformation—this sanctification truth—in Philippians 3:10  when he says, “That I may know Him , and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death.” Paul is saying that Christ is found in me when “I know” and “follow after Him. Christ is seen in me as I pursue the “excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ.”[4] He is seen in me the more “I know Him”—as I personally  experience Him in His glorious resurrection power, as I fellowship with Him in His life of suffering and as I learn to die to self being like Him in His death.

Christ will be seen in me as I “follow after[5] Christ or passionately pursue Him as “I press toward the mark.[6]  The same Greek word that is translated “follow after” and “press” in verses 12 & 14 is also translated “persecuting” in Philippians 3:6.  Paul was zealous in his efforts to please God as he persecuted the church.  He maintained this zealousness in seeking to please God after His conversion but now with a more complete Biblical and spiritual understanding of what truly pleases God. He pursued a life of obedience rooted in his supreme love for his Savior. He had experienced this great salvational truth, being saved from a life of pursuing self-righteousness in order to please God. He now found Himself in a state of amazing grace having God’s favor upon Him. As a result he wanted nothing more than to bring honor and glory to the name of Christ by having Christ found in him as Christ-likeness was more clearly and consistently displayed in his life.

In 1 Timothy 6:11 Paul says to Timothy, “but thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, Godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.”  When God’s children, by His grace, first “follow after” or passionately pursue the things of God we will die to self by “fleeing” the pleasures of this world. When our love for God is a supremely exclusive kind of love, our love for the world and its temptations lose their powerful enticement. Christian character will then be cultivated in our lives. Our faithful, humble obedience to God’s Word will result in Christ being found in us.

Have you found yourself caught up in this apathetic kind of convenient Christianity? Have you found your faith looking more like a kind of hypocritical Christianity? Have you found yourself falling back on your rights justified by unbiblical Christian liberty? Have you found yourself taking for granted your “ticket to heaven” yet little or no desire to understand more about what God has to say to you in His love letter to you?

If the answer is “yes” then run to Christ. “Flee these things; and follow after righteousness, Godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” Get back into God’s Word and see the glorious yet tragic truths of the Gospel. Be reminded of the “mercies of God” as you read through Isaiah 53, Matthew 26:47–27:50, Mark 14:43–15:39, Luke 22:47–23:47, and John 18-19 seeing the crucible of suffering that your Savior endured on your behalf. All that He suffered so that you could enjoy a relationship with Him—a relationship which displays your love for Him and brings Him much glory. A relationship in which you show your value of the cross as you see it in light of what He accomplished for you by dying in your place.

Read the accounts in the Gospels of His resurrection along with 1 Corinthians 15 and see His path of torment ending in triumph over sin and death. Meditate upon these triumphant truths at the end of this resurrection chapter as Paul writes, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-58)

Let these refreshing words of victory wash over you cleansing and stabilizing you as they renew your mind with these triumphant and transforming truths. May these passages of Christ’s torment and triumph renew in you a gratitude for your Savior and a supreme love for your Lord. I beg of you as Paul does in Romans 12:1-2, based upon these “mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living [transformed] sacrifice, holy [set apart from sin], acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. [Stop being] conformed to this world—[this anti-God culture that you find yourself in]: but be ye transformed—[changed into something useful that brings glory to God] by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

As you have placed your faith and trust in Christ alone for salvation you are “in Christ.” But it doesn’t end there. Let Christ be found in you as you take hold of the sanctifying truths of the Gospel. Passionately pursue these transforming truths by “put off concerning the former conversation [the ways of] the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the [ways of] new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). Passionately pursue Christ-likeness as you meditate upon the “mercies of God” and learn to rest in these powerful, stabilizing truths found in God’s Word.

Read and meditated upon what God says. Listen to the words of James as he writes, “But be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the Word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding [looking carefully at] his natural face in a glass [a mirror]: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. BUT whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty [the Word of God], and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a [obedient] doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (James 1:22-25).  Commit yourself to doing everything that God has said in His Word. Start applying the principles of Scripture to your life and enjoy the blessings that come from a life of loving obedience.

If you questions whether or not you are “in Christ”—in God’s family—consider taking the time to read The Most Precious Truth as well as How do I get to Heaven? See what God has done for you. Place your faith in Christ ALONE for salvation as you rest ONLY in His perfect, sacrificial work on your behalf. Then take Him at His Word.  Believe all that He says and be stabilized with these sanctifying truths as they transform your life.  This life of loving obedience will give testimony of Christ being found in you.

See the blessed life as a reality instead of something always just out of your reach. The blessed life is a life where Christ is consistently found in you. It is a life of obedience generated by a supreme love for your Savior. Don’t just settle for being “in Christ.” Let Christ be found in you today!

[1] Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27)

These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

[2] “For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.” (John 6:38)

But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.” (John 14:31)

[3] “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

[4] “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” (Philippians 3:8)

[5] “Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12)

[6]I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)