December 7, 2010

To Live is Christ — growing in trials

A few months ago a forty-something said that it must get easier to be a Christian as you get older. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry or give him a swat on the side of the head. Then, last Sunday, a young believer told me that growing in Christ is like skateboarding uphill — as soon as you stop you slide backwards. She got it right and I wanted to give her a big hug.

Not only is that true, the older I get, the more intense the battles and the steeper the hill. I suppose if I quit seeking God and desiring to obey Him, life might get easier, but I never did like going downhill backwards. Besides, my troubles could happen anyway, and if they did and I was going backwards, how would I ever deal with them? Without the Lord’s help, what else would be reliable? That is too wild a ride for me.

My mother used to say, “Well, if we didn’t need it, we would not be getting it.” She knew about the sovereign wisdom of God and who controls trials. The psalmist goes a step farther by expressing the value he found in difficulties. He said,

It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. (Psalm 119:71–72)
Some of life’s most difficult challenges are in God’s classroom where He teaches me His principles. In affliction, I learn the ways of God and how they apply to my life. I also learn His faithfulness and how to rely on Him. Without the trials I would be ignorant of spiritual truth and miss out on seeing God’s power.

James has something to say about trials too. He sees the good in them also.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2–4)
As I get older, the challenges of life teach me that God is faithful and can deliver me. I need to trust Him and stick it out. The patience He gives is a mark of maturity and something not learned or developed unless it is put to the test. Steadfastness is the same. Who can become persistent and persevering unless there are situations that require it?

However, both the psalmist and James show me that I have more learning ahead of me. I hesitate at feeling joy about afflictions and seeing how they are good for me. While I know in my heart that this is true, part of me still wishes that it wasn’t!


Precious Moments said...

I say amen to what you've written Elsie. Re-the questions the 40-yr-old asked you, in some ways, I find it to be true, for the things which stressed us out in our forties do not bother us now. Aging with the Lord does give us wisdom to look over certain things and to rest in Him more confidently.
if not for the problems, we may not be who we are in Christ today. So,that is the fruit of our hardships.

LC said...

Yes, this is true. However, in my experience the spiritual warfare becomes more intense. The enemy does not want me to serve God and that will always be a battle as long as God gives the grace to keep going uphill!