I posted something on a social site and had what I thought was a friendly conversation with a fellow believer. The person mentioned she’d taught Sunday school for years, been a leader in Bible study, and even written a Christian book.
However, as the discussion continued, the person turned nasty. My posting about heaven was agreeable, but the alternative for those who refuse the free gift of grace from Christ, was not. She took me to task for having the audacity of mentioning hell. She had chosen atheism because when God did not honor her Christian book with book sales, she walked away from God.
I was shocked, and before I could formulate a response, she unfollowed me and disappeared into cyber-space. Oh, I could have shared the stories of so many who have labored, and continue to labor, for the Lord without seeing a return on their spiritual investment this side of heaven.
Disappointment, heartache, tragedy, suffering, trauma and unexpected life-changes take a toll on many. Life is hard, and it is difficult to keep a firm faith when everything seems to be imploding. It’s tough to keep on going when prayers don’t seem to be answered.
Jesus told the story of the farmer sowing seeds. The seed falling on rocky ground, “is like the person who hears the teaching and quickly accepts it with joy. But he does not let the teaching go deep into his life, so he keeps it only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the teaching he accepted, he quickly gives up.” Matthew 13:20-21 (NCV)*
Following Jesus is not an easy journey. Paul warned, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” ~ 2 Timothy 3:12 (NIV)
Many claim to be Christian until something negative happens. There are those who walk away from God when trouble comes to them or the ones they love. Satan is constantly on the move, crouching, roaring like a lion to distract, dissuade, disgust, and disappoint as many as possible so that they will walk away, give up, and turn their backs on God.
What if Paul had walked away? Although he faithfully served God throughout his ministry, numerous times he was whipped, beaten, and stoned. He spent years in prisons, ship-wrecked several times, and in danger most of his faith-walk. What if he had turned away from God?
It’s easy to claim Christianity when life is good and everything is going great. To be honest, I would prefer an easy life. I don’t know anyone who loves trials and persecution. However, without the difficulties, how would we know our faith was real and firm? If every time something bad happened, we turned our backs and walked away, I guess we’d be constantly turning and backing. Goodness, I would have been flipping and flopping most of my life.
Fortunately, God never turns His back on us. His loving hands remain faithful. When trials come and you’re tempted to walk away, remember Satan is the one who wants you to turn from God. Don’t listen to the enemy.
Trials are not punishment. Amy Carmichael wrote, “Trials are not ‘chastisement’. No earthly father goes on chastising a loving child. That is a common thought about suffering, but I am quite sure it is a wrong thought. Paul’s suffering were not that, nor are yours. They are battle wounds. They are signs of high confidence—honours. The Father holds His children very close to His heart when they are going through such rough places as this.”[i]
Peter reminds us, “…trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” ~ 1 Peter 1:7 (NLT)
If you are angry, hurt, disappointed, heartbroken, suffering, disillusioned, mad and hurt, whatever you are feeling, run to God. Take everything to Him, scream, cry and question. He will never be surprised or upset that you have questions and emotions. Jesus said to come to Him like little children. Most children do not have a filter, they will ask any question, and they don’t hide their feelings. Turn to God, freely talk with Him. Remember, God sent His Son so you would be eternally free, and He wants you to walk in freedom.
Don’t give up. Instead of walking away, run to your Savior. His loving arms are always, always open wide.
“My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience. Let your patience show itself perfectly in what you do. Then you will be perfect and complete and will have everything you need.” ~ James 1:2-4 (NCV)
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.]” ~ Matthew 11:28 (AMPC)
[i] Amy Carmichael, Candles in the dark, CLC Publications, Fort Washington, PA, p 54
Photo by Lisa Buffaloe