October 6, 2009

Real or fake?

Fake diamonds can be detected in several ways. One is a water test. A genuine diamond sparkles brilliantly under water, but an imitation quickly loses its shine. Another test is similar; breathe on the stone with it close to your mouth. A genuine diamond loses the ‘fog’ quickly whereas a fake will stay foggy much longer.

Testing also detects character in people. Those who seem normal and nice often do odd or even unlawful things under duress. Hot water reveals human character just as it does in tea bags.

Christians also find out things about themselves when trouble hits. I am often surprised at my responses. They can be godly, but are sometimes negative, even sinful. The big difference for me in difficulties is that I know God intends that those trials bring out Christlike responses. For that reason, I’m not to shrink from trouble but see it as a positive thing and cooperate with God as He works in me to produce Christian character.

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4)
I know that patience under duress is not limited to Christians. People have been known to endure every form of privation, torture, and death without a murmur and without even visible emotion. They did it because they determined they would not yield to their pain. They remained strong and came through with great pride in their stoicism.

This firm attitude has nothing in common with the grace of patient endurance. For Christians, perseverance is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, not a self-discipline. It could be described as a meek endurance in trials. Meek means strength under control. That strength is because of faith. In other words, I can be patient because I know that God controls everything that happens to me.

This patience is also a calm waiting. God has promised to work all things for good (Romans 8:28-29), but sometimes I need to wait for that good to appear. It might look like stoicism on the outside, but the difference is that peace on the inside.

Because God is sovereign, I know that He is in charge of all things that happen to me, even bad things. He is fully able to remove the trial or give me the ability to persevere under that trial, but the trial brings out or produces this perseverance. If life was always easy, no one would know that I have it, including myself.

This idea of perseverance producing patience is proof of my faith. So is the idea of patience resulting in experience. In this context, the word experience could also read “proof” as it is translated that way in other verses. In other words, patience is that experiential evidence that I have believed through grace and that God is active in my life. When I remain calm during difficulties, I know God is with me.

The end of this testing is hope, not a “hope so” but a “know so” kind of hope where I am totally convinced of the promises of God. He gives hope through faith, but also through difficult  experiences that back up the things that I believe.

I am filled with hope when I look away from myself to Jesus. Everything about Him is wonderful and true. He fills me with hope by the way He lived and the way He died (for me) and by coming back from death to offer eternal life.

I’m also filled with hope when I look at myself. My life has been transformed by looking at Jesus. Being plunged into trials has brought out the faith that He put in me. The breath of trouble that comes might fog me up, but not for long. I know I’m a rough stone, but He is polishing me. I think differently, have different values than I did before He came into my life. I’ve changed since last week, never mind last year. 

God tests me to prove me, but He also gives me all I need to pass the tests. I shake my head in amazement because I know that the difference between real and fake is Jesus.

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