October 9, 2009

He never gives up

When I read verses about enduring trials in life, I cannot help but think of one aunt who said to us, “You guys have been through so much” and I didn’t know what she was talking about. Yes, we had trials that she didn’t know about, but even the ‘trials’ she had observed seemed like nothing. This is evidence of God’s grace.

Others would have more to say about trials. Missionary Bruce Olsen is one who suffered unbelievable tests of his faith and yet God used those circumstances in incredible ways. Other missionaries have similar stories and all would also attest to God’s grace in their lives. However, few of us homebodies know what it is like to be tested to the point of blood or loss of life.

My tests are different from physical danger and the dark spiritual battles that missionaries face. For me, some are difficult situations that challenge what I believe, but most of them are far more subtle. Will I continue to follow Jesus when life is good? When I don’t have any challenges? When time seems free to choose what I will do?

The homebody still has to govern their thoughts and keep them from going off into sinful pleasures. I must also govern my tongue. Answering the phone is a small thing, yet God expects me to speak with grace to telemarketers as well as anyone else who calls. I also am tested to see if I will be like Jesus in my relationships with family and friends.

For me, most of these tests and tests concerning my faith do not include painful situations. Instead, they are things like years of praying for someone and not seeing any results, or doing the things God asks me without experiencing much reward or appreciation. Faithfulness in the small things can seem just as trying as faithful in the crunch times.

Blessed is the man who endures temptation (means testing in this context); for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)
Endurance is about patiently and triumphantly sticking with it. This could be a matter of passive or painful survival, but the outcome is victory, not giving up on faith God. The test proves that the survivor is a genuine believer.

I know of folks who used to attend church, professed Christ as their Savior, and even were baptized, yet when trouble came into their lives, they vanished. The trouble that tested them could have been a big thing, perhaps a broken relationship, but not always. I know one who stayed away when people in the church looked down their noses at his smoking habit.

Regardless of the test, it convinced these people that Christianity either was too difficult, or didn’t work. I pray that God will bring them back, but those prayers are still ongoing.

I cannot condemn these people. One of my tests also brought me to the brink of walking away from God and all that I believed. But He wouldn’t let me go. He called me to endure the test and gave me great strength to overcome the strong temptation to quit and walk away. This event convinced me even more that Jesus is the Savior and I am not. For that reason, I cannot blame others who walk away. If it were not for Jesus, all of us would, so I pray instead of pointing my finger at backsliders.

I understand that any lack of endurance begins with a small choice that puts a person on a slippery slope. The test always presses me to quit, but if I do, even in just a small way, that doubt and attitude of walking away grows like the size of a snowball rolling downhill. It takes grace to get it stopped.

Every day, believers experience times of testing, both big and small. We are blessed when we endure because in the long run, after many successes and failures, we find out that God is faithful. We might have to hit bottom and fragment in a million pieces, but He will never give up His task of putting us back together and bringing us to Himself.

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