post

Embrace the Trial – Part 4

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

It is in our acceptance of what is given [whatever that may be], that God gives Himself.

This quote comes from her book, “These Strange Ashes,” where Elisabeth Elliot writes,

Faith’s most severe tests come not when we see nothing, but when we see a stunning array of evidence that seems to prove our faith vain. If God were God, if He were omnipotent, if He had cared, would this have happened? Is this that I face now … the reward of my obedience? One turns in disbelief again from the circumstances and looks into the abyss. But in the abyss there is only blackness, no glimmer of light, no answering echo …. It was a long time before I came to the realization that it is in our acceptance of what is given [whatever that may be], that God gives Himself. This grief, this sorrow, this total loss that empties my hands and breaks my heart, I may, if I will, accept, and by accepting it, I find in my hands something to offer. And so I give it back to Him, who in mysterious exchange gives Himself to me.”

As I read these words, I am struck by her raw transparency as she struggles to reconcile Who God is with the reality of the pain of her suffering. God giving Himself to us in the trial speaks of His attitude toward His children, as He reveals more of Who He is. The truths of God bring great comfort in the trial, when we learn to embrace Who He is.

How will my attitude toward my trial change when I embrace the truth that God gives Himself? What changes in my mind when I embrace this truth? How will my response to my trial change when my focus shifts from off my pain to the Person in control of the process?

The shifting of our perspective from off the painful process to the Person Who is providentially seeking to bring about His loving purpose results in worship. In part 3, we considered God’s character—“what God is like” and “what God knows is best.” We considered Paul and his response to God’s negative answer to his prayer. His response is one of surrender as he embraces the trial in worship. The reason? He knew and trusted his loving, heavenly Father.

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 night that Jesus was betrayed and arrested, He tenderly taught His disciples, seeking to prepare them for His departure, which was their greatest trial up to this point in their lives. Over and over He teaches them life-changing, stabilizing truths about His Father.

In John 15 we see a comforting word picture of the purging process. It illustrates for us both the purpose and the process of trials, but it also shows us the Person orchestrating the process for His good purpose. Take a few moments and read through these verses noting the Father and Son, as I have highlighted them to draw our attention.

I am the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.”—John 15:1-5

Amongst the many stabilizing truths in the passage, two great truths stand out, bringing great encouragement. In this passage Christ speaks of the loving relationships between the Husbandman and the Vine and branches.

The first, in illustration form, is that God is a vinedresser lovingly pruning His vine branches. What I find so encouraging about this word picture is the attitude of God the Father, the husbandman, going about pruning His branches. Picture in your mind a vinedresser coming alongside each vine with his pruning shears as he gets in close to the vine. He is very deliberate and methodical about where he cuts. He desires to maximize the fruit-bearing potential and quality of each branch so he cuts off only what is necessary—he applies only necessary pain to the branch. In this we see the careful attention the Husbandman gives as He wraps His loving arms around the Vine and prunes each branch—like a loving father embracing his child.

The second great truth is Christ’s desire for union and communion with His branches. Through this purging process Christ, the vine, is ever present and calls for us to “abide in Him,” ever seeking to draw us into closer, more intimate fellowship of dependency. From these words we see God’s attitude of love pouring forth like an unending fountain.

Consider what the Bible says about God’s love: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9). “But God commendeth [proved] His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). This is the heart of our God in every action He takes—He is the unchanging, loving God.

In the book of Jeremiah, God speaks of the 70 years of judgment, in Babylon, that the nation of Israel will suffer through. He then reassures and reminds them of Who He is. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” saith the LORD, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected [desired] end” (Jeremiah 29:11). He is saying, “Remember Who I am! I Love you, and desire peace for you and not evil. I desire a good and purposeful end to this process. Trust Me, I love You!”

A few chapters later Jeremiah writes, “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, ‘Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee [He lovingly encourages His people into a closer relationship with Him]’” (Jeremiah 31:3). God reminds His servant that His painful actions toward His people are rooted in a love that will never end. It is with this love that He draws His people closer to Himself through the trials of life.

A second word picture has been helpful for me as I consider God’s praiseworthy purpose. Paul writes, “For we are His workmanship [masterpiece], created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

I find it helpful to keep in mind that God is a master sculptor skillfully sculpting His masterpiece. A.W. Tozer wrote,

It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply. If God sets out to make you an unusual Christian He is not likely to be as gentle as He is usually pictured by the popular teachers. A marble sculptor does not use a manicure set to reduce the rude, unshapely marble to a thing of beauty. The saw, the hammer and the chisel are cruel tools, but without them the rough stone must remain forever formless and unbeautiful.”

This illustration pictures for us the process that is necessary to fulfill God’s praiseworthy purpose. It is a painful process but never forget that it is always with purpose from the hand of a loving God. Remember, “God never wastes the sufferings of His saints” (Warren Wiersbe). It is always for a good purpose.

Just as a master sculptor takes the necessary time to complete his masterpiece, so too, God the greatest, all-wise Master Sculptor takes only the necessary time, and necessary cuts to bring His masterpiece to completion. Remember the end goal for this painful process, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose […] to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:28-29).

Let’s keep in mind that God’s masterpiece will only be fully completed once we see our Savior face to face, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2), “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6). Until that time, God is seeking to sculpt us into the image of His Son, day by day, trial by trial.

“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.”

Hope that is Based upon Truth

What gets you through the trials of life?  How do you weather the difficult, discouraging storms of life that often leave you in despair?  Often in life we feel as though we are dealt a bad hand and we struggle with the injustices of life.  We feel these are due to bad luck and sometimes we may even blame God for His part in our difficulties as if He does not love us.

In these times we feel so alone and discouraged, hopeless and full of despair because the world seems against us and God seems far from us.  These are the times in which we may lose hope and in turn “hope” that our luck will change even though we feel as though this “hope” is just a “hope and a prayer.”  In these times our hope is based upon our feelings and perceptions about life.  This is a dangerous place for us to be!  So do you just batten down the hatches and ride out the storm or is there another option?

The answer is that there is another option and it is found in God’s Word—the Bible!  God, the Creator of life has given us the guide book to life to show us His designed way to live a life of purpose and peace.  This is the life of knowing Him—not a life of religion but life because of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Warren Wiersbe writes, “Unbelief causes us to look at God through our circumstances, and this creates hopelessness; but faith enables us to look at our circumstances through the reality of God and this gives us hope.”[i]

Instead of hoping that our luck will change let us, by faith, consider the “hope that is based upon Truth.”  Let’s consider the words of the “Weeping Prophet,” Jeremiah—a man who knew great discouragement in life.  A man who experienced the world against him yet was able to live a faithful life of purpose and hope—a life that honored the Lord.  His hope was properly defined as confidence because it was based upon truth.  Let his words encourage you.  In Lamentations 3:21 he says, “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.”

He says, “This is what I remind myself of—this is what I know to be true about my God, therefore I have hope or patient confidence!” Jeremiah reminds himself of the truths of God which he recounts in the following verses.  The truths of God, as they are recalled to mind, should bring us comfort as they reassure us of God’s faithfulness, His love, His mercy, His all-sufficiency, His grace…and the wonder of it all is that the list goes on and on.

What you know, and rely on, to be true about the Lord will transform your life!

Learn to preach God’s Word to yourself instead of listening to yourself.

The “Weeping Prophet” goes on to say, “it is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. ” (Lamentations 3:22)

Jeremiah reminds himself of God’s mercy and compassion.  The trials of life, as fires of affliction, are meant to chasten and cleanse us not to consume us. They are meant to direct not destroy.  Although sometimes we feel the only way we’ll make it out is through death but the divine purpose of God is to purge us in order to prove the reality of our faith.  Keep in mind that because “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) we deserve to be consumed by the fires of affliction, yet God in His tender mercy and grace takes us through these fires to bring us forth as gold.

Truth to remember: Our God is merciful and compassionate.

“That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:” (1 Peter 1:7)

The trials of life are the evidence of God’s faithful work in our lives to work in us His divine purpose of “conforming us into the image of His Son” (Romans 8:28-29).  Never forget the truth that all of God’s actions toward us are actions of love as He lovingly seeks to turn us back into right fellowship with Himself and for those who have yet to receive Him as Lord and Savior, He seeks to win their souls to Him.

The LORD’s compassions never fail “they are new every morning: great is Thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23).  Although we at times come to the point of feeling like they have failed, yet the Lord is faithful.  He is faithful in being the living God who compassionately loves us.

The tender mercies or compassions of God “are new every morning” because God has an endless supply of mercy and we must learn to faithfully live each day as a new day.  It is because of God’s mercy that we have a new day to live for Him.

Truth to remember: Our God is faithful.

“The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in Him.” (Lamentations 3:24)

Jeremiah continues as he says, “The LORD is my portion” or the source of his strength and hope—his confidence.  Is it possible to use up this infinite source? When we are living in this truth, we can have patient confidence that God is in control and what He does is right.  This is where the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) comes from.  It literally surpasses human reasoning in its ability to relieve anxiety in our lives.  Isaiah 26:3 tells us that as we stay focused on the this Source—His Truths—He promises His “perfect peace” will be a precious reality to us.

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

When we begin to realize that God is sufficient to meet every genuine need and at the same time that we lack this self-sufficiency, it should increase our dependence upon Him.  When we trust Him to be able to do “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20) is when we begin to live as He designed us to live—living a life of confidence in the Lord while enjoying the supernatural peace that only comes from the Giver of peace.

Truth to remember: Our God is ALL that we need.

“The LORD is good unto them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeketh Him.” (Lamentations 3:25)

Finally we see the goodness of God.  Stop and think of all the ways that the Lord has been good to you.  Don’t forget to include that difficult times of life where God has drawn you closer to Himself by revealing to you an area of needed change.

Truth to remember:  Our God is good.

Remember that He is the God who loves to forgive.  Those areas that He reveals to us where change is needed—sin is usually the culprit.  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

“For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon Thee.” (Psalm 86:5)

Truth to remember: Our God is ALWAYS ready to forgive.

When you stop and consider these precious truths about the Lord do you feel your heart being lifted up? Do you begin to hear the “new song in [your] mouth, even praise unto [your] God” (Psalm 40:3)?  Confidently know the God of the Bible and enjoy the peace that only He can give.  Let Him give you peace in the storms as you rely on what you know to be true about Him. Allow the light of God’s Word to break through darkness and despair and reveal the stabilizing truths about Himself that He wants you to know and hold on to.

Trust in what the Bible says is true about the Lord.  Rely upon this transforming knowledge and “be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).


[i] Warren Wiersbe, “The Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament The Prophets”, p. 158