Thursday, February 24, 2011

Your Best Grief Now

1 Peter

1: 6-7

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

4: 12-16

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

James 1: 2-3

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

Suffering doesn't win many converts to the Christian faith in our Westernised climate of self-betterment. The religion of self-help, cloaked in Christian clothing, opts instead for the language of breakthrough that promises the upwardly mobile and victorious Christian life; with better relationships, perfect righteousness, financial security and all the trimmings. And its all just around the corner, if we could only put our positive thinking hat on.

Yet we know through experience that this religion comes crashing down when faced with the harsh realities of life which turn us inward, so that we question God's goodness and mercy, and the status of our relationship with Him. It's in this arena, one of doubt and unbelief, where Satan would like to leave us.

But these reassuring words spoken to us from the apostles Peter and James challenge our thinking and renew our minds as we go through our own Job experiences. Turn outward and rejoice! Because God in his grace is refining our weak faith so that we can stand when the Grade 5 hurricanes come to beat against our house; when rejection and persecution come knocking.

God knows what we most need - and it isn't necessarily better homes and jobs - but to live in complete dependence and security in Christ so that we might persevere and not fall away when the fragile securities of this world are undone. With a faith refined by fire that looks past the temporary setbacks of this earthly life, and forward to our permanent hope where God's love alone endures.

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