Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;1 Peter 4:12(NASB)
As Christians, we are citizens of heaven who are passing through a cursed world which is filled with condemned sinners who are in need of Christ's forgiveness... and God has given us everything we need to live a victorious Christian life in this fallen world. But too many Christians wrongly think that a victorious Christian life is a happy, trouble-free existence where every whim of our heart is magically fulfilled by some sugar-daddy in the sky, cherry-picking Scriptures that 'prove' this false interpretation of the Word while proclaiming that the problem of others results from their lack of faith. This could not be further from the truth. But how few even turn to Scripture to discover the principles and practices of what it really means to live godly in Christ Jesus?
Jesus told us that in this world we will have tribulation, for we are in the world but not of it, and He also assured us that His victory on the Cross is our victory too - but that victory may look very different from the soft, easy life and trouble-free existence they perceive this to mean.
We are told that the world will hate us just as it hated Christ and that as Christians, we will face many difficulties and dangers, trials and tribulations. We are reminded in Scripture of the men and women of faith who experienced shocking ordeals - many of whom endured torture and trials and underwent stonings and scourgings. Many were slain with the sword, destitute, tormented, afflicted, and experienced a multiplicity of terrible ordeals at the hands of wicked men and corrupt governments. These were not the exception, but the rule.
Over and again, we are warned that all believers will face fiery trials which will come to us in many shapes and guises. Nevertheless, we are promised Christ's sufficient grace because we are in union with Him, and His strength is perfected in us as we depend upon Him.
James explains that God uses trials to test our faith and to produce endurance. Indeed, he even exhorts us to consider our various trials as a joy and blessing from our Father, while Paul warns that all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution - but that God Himself will comfort us in our suffering and pain so that we can comfort others in their suffering and pain. And Peter joins the chorus: "Beloved brethren, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you to test you, as though some strange thing were happening to you."
We have already received all spiritual blessing in abundance, simply because we are in Christ - and in HIM we have all that we need to live godly lives, but nowhere in Scripture are we told that we will have the trouble free life that much of Christendom teaches today - rather we are informed of the opposite.
Our life trials are not, as some suggest, a lack of faith or God's punishment, but a purifying tool that God uses to hone and refine His children - to develop our trust and dependence upon Him. God's purpose in each of our lives is to educate, discipline, and train us in righteousness and the fiery trials that come upon us are used by Him to try us, as the furnace tries silver - to cut deep into our fleshly nature and polish off all the fleshly dross that contaminates our new-life in Christ so that by grace through faith we will not murmur, but humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God, knowing that He has promised to exalt us in due time. So let us accept life's fiery trial as a beautiful child-training tool to conform us into Christlikeness, and yield to His gracious child-training so that in the end, we will come forth as pure gold.
Heavenly Father, there is a part of me that wants to have a nice, easy, trouble-free existence and yet I know that this life is a training ground to draw me closer to You and to conform me, day by day, into the likeness of Christ. May I not be surprised at the fiery ordeals that I am called upon to endure, but embrace them as Your gracious child training programme to make me more like Christ. Use me in this sin-sick world to comfort others with the same comfort that I receive from You. In Jesus' name, AMEN.
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