Both these words possess the same letters, but with a flip of two letters we have a whole new word.
Trials lead us to blaze new trails.
But sometimes trails lead us right into trials.
There have been trails that I have hesitated to follow because I knew they would lead me right into a trial. I could foresee that a particular path would not be easy. Trials weary me. Trials scare me. Trials require much of me. Trials are hindrances.
‘These have come [all kinds of trials] so that your faith–more worth than gold,which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.’ 1 Peter 1:7
Faith. It is a gift from God. A gift. But it’s not a gift that we put on a shelf and wait for a special day to take it down and use it. Or to ‘re-gift’ it. Or to ‘repurpose’ it. Or even to ‘recycle’ it. No. It is a gift. For you and for me to use. Faith has a purpose and it is valuable and available.
My faith is worth more than gold, and it grows more in value with use. Your faith is worth more than gold and grows more in value as you use it.
Each trial is an opportunity for my faith to be refined and to be made more genuine. Who wouldn’t want that? But who counts the cost? Could I be satisfied with mediocre faith or do I want the real, unmoving, firm kind of faith? Then I must welcome trials. Not that I am going to go create trials, but my perspective on trials should change.
To see it as a loving refining fire. To see it as an opportunity to prove to myself and the world that my faith is genuine. Why? So that Jesus Christ is revealed in my life and receive praise, glory, and honor.
In Genesis we meet a young man by the name of Joseph, who experienced a long, refining trail. His dreams, his integrity, and his faith did not keep him out of the the trials he experienced, but God used them to affect a miracle in the lives of his people.
Sometimes our trials are meant for a bigger story than just us and ours. Sometimes our stories are meant for someone yet to be. Sometimes our stories are for someone we may never meet. Sometimes are stories are meant for God alone to use as he sees best.
May we greet each trial, with faith instead of fear? May we trust the heart of God that the trail that appears dark and frightening is really filled with treasured beauty that will be revealed as we take those steps of faith?
2 Corinthians 1:9-10: ‘Indeed in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us.’
If we ever question anything about our past or our circumstances, we merely need to read this passage. It is the universal answer to the question of ‘why?’. At one time I spent an inordinant amount of time asking pestering the Lord with my questions of ‘why?’. I was rather demanding. Then I grew petulant when all I heard was silence.
Most of my ‘why?’ questions have been about other people. For some strange reason (sin) we hurt each other. Some people hurt more easily and some people are quicker to throw the spear. I find it agonizing when it is a fellow believer. I find it heart wrenching when I realize I just threw the spear. I find it difficult when my heart runs straight to embracing an offense.
What a fine line we walk! People are given the amazing privilege of reflecting God to the world around us and yet we fail everyday. We are to look for ‘fruit’. We are to live at peace and in unity with each other. We put so much pressure on ourselves and each other.
I know this Christian life was meant to be lived out with people, but it is so hard and so distracting. For instance: People are way more visible than God. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t actually seen God, I see his people. Unfortunately, I don’t see them through the veil of the righteousness of Jesus—I see them through my own sin-scaled eyes that are slowing, painfully being made new. Oh, that I would have the eyes to see as clearly as he does. Unfortunately, I don’t. I really don’t. I think I see fruit. I think I see evidence of God working in someone’s life. But when tragedy comes, when betrayal comes, it is difficult to look at their lives and believe that I saw clearly.
‘But God? I ask, it’s people that prove that your plan works. It’s people committing their lives to you. It’s people growing in you. It’s people committing their time to their local church. It’s about the people, right?’
No. It’s about God and him fulfilling his purpose.
When I am hurt by people I can run to this verse in 2 Corinthians and transfer my hope in people to hope in him.
It’s about setting our hope on God. Setting my hope on God. He has said he will deliver us. Do I believe it? Do I look for it? Do I believe that he raises the dead—not just raised the dead, past tense, but raise the dead, present tense? Do I really believe that he is powerful to take any situation and make it into something that brings him glory?
I have to or I would throw in the towel of following where he leads and where he goes. It’s the only answer that makes sense–it’s the only answer that satisfies the perpetual ‘why?’.
It’s about God—setting my hope on him—the author of my faith and the finisher of my faith.
People disappointing me does not have to finish my faith. It only does if my hope is centered on people.
Fall is whispering its arrival in the cool nights and the turning of the fields. I have always thought the fall sky is a different sort of blue than the blue of summer or spring or winter. It takes on a brilliance that is emphasized with the myriad of colors in the fields, trees and lawns.
It’s a time to reap what was sown.
It’s a time to calculate the bushels grown and collected.
I watch the cycle of seasons as they unfold and with it I see the cycle of my spiritual life. Often times, in my walk with Christ, I go through quiet seasons, similar to winter where things seem barren, but life is there, it’s just hidden for a time. It’s a time where the Lord is revealing a hidden truth to me so I dig deep and mine it out and ponder and let it grow within and stir my soul. Sometimes I learn a hard truth, such as a pattern of thought that doesn’t please the Lord and sometimes it’s a healing truth, such as he chooses me. Me! The unchosen! (you know those playground games where teams are chosen and there is this one kid that gets picked last, but nobody wants her, but you have to pick her anyway? That was me.)
Then spring comes and with it there is mud, icy rain, and more mud, but eventually, because it alway does, life pokes it’s little head up through the muddy soil and reaches for the warmth of the sun. So it is with God’s life-giving truths in my spirit. As I accept those truths, they can’t help but poke their little heads up, looking around, trying the world on for size, trying me on for size. It’s the best part of God’s truths. They affect us and the world around us. They bring beauty.
Summer arrives and plants grow and flower and flourish. That ‘truth’ that God revealed to me in winter? Well, it begins to bloom and produce fruit, yet it needs to be protected from the weeds that will choke a new plant out. What are those weeds? My defaults. My knee-jerk reactions to people and circumstances. When that happens, I have a choice. I can choose to pull it out right then and there or ignore it and wait for another day more ‘conducive’ to ‘weeding’. The thing is…the longer I allow a weed to take root in my flower bed, the harder it is to pull out. So it is with spiritual weeds. Pull them while they’re little and your heart’s soil is soft.
My favorite time of the year. The colors are brilliant. The sky takes my breath away. The sunrises and sunsets are the most spectacular. It appears that plants are dying, but it’s this time when we can offer our fruits to others. We’ve grown and taken in nutrients from the soil and sun and we have produced fruit! The truths we learn, the hard things we face, the growth we experience are not meant for us alone. Everything we experience can be turned into praise when we allow the Holy Spirit into those places to be used for God’s glory and purpose in someone else’s life.
Then there is a season of rest–winter. And the cycle continues. We are not meant to live always in summer or on a mountaintop, but there are winter times and valley times and new growth times and muddy times and cold times and warmed by the sun times. Embrace it all and smile into the face of the future. God is there.