I'm still away! This last weekend was a blur of states, towns, and places. I got my first glimpse of St. Louis and we did a fast drive through Cincinnati! I'm hoping we get to see more of Chicago on the way back. For now, we just left Florence and are in Cave City.
Enjoy this guest post with my friend Joshua Hoppman!
When the Christian Walk Gets Ugly
Being a Christian is easy. Following Christ is a piece of cake. God blesses every Christian so richly that we don’t have to do anything hard as a Christian. Just remember to go to church every now and then and you’ll be the gold medal Christian of the week.
This is the mind set of many Christians today. Then, when trials, issues, and problems arise, they are the first to blame God. Is it any wonder then, that so many people after finding Christ, shortly after abandon Him? I can’t say that I’m surprised, because frankly, what else would you expect? Many churches encourage unbelievers that are attending church to, “Become a Christian as you are” then, “stay the way you are.” This is not correct thinking. Yes, Christ, bids you come as you are, and yes, Christ calls all unbelievers to Himself, but after conversion there needs to be a change in their lifestyle both public and personal. Romans 12:2 comes to mind which says, “Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
So, how are we as Christians supposed to react when the trials in our life come? First, we need to completely change our mindset, after all Christianity isn’t easy. There, I said it. Please don’t close you internet browser and allow me to go a little further (Unless your browser is Internet Explorer, in which case you will be given a few moments to change it). Hardship in the Christian walk is not only possible but probable. Jesus told his disciples, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Matthew 16:24-25) Denying one’s self is the act of forfeiting the desires of your sinful flesh and doing the exact opposite. Real simple, right? Anyone who is honest with himself before God knows that dying to self is not an easy task, but an arduous one.
Warren Wiersbe says the following about Jesus’ words, “Today the cross is an accepted symbol of love and sacrifice. But in that day, the cross was a horrible means of capital punishment….He presented to the disciples two approaches to life: deny yourself or live for yourself, take up your cross or ignore the cross, follow Christ or follow the world, lose your life for Christ’s sake or save your life for your sake, forsake the world or gain the world, keep your soul or lose your soul, share His reward and glory or lose His reward and glory.” Being a Christian, you will have multiple trials and tribulations. In fact, if you haven’t been put through some kind of hardship you may need to question your walk with God, and make sure you are wholeheartedly following Him because If you are following Christ, problems will arise and tribulation will come (Keep in mind; we are not to go looking for trouble or persecution. For instance, don’t walk into a public school and start shouting Psalm 23 at the top of your lungs, and most certainly don’t place a bunch of “Jesus Loves You” bumper stickers all over the president’s limousine!). Mindset changed yet? Great, moving on!
The Bible speaks of a man who lived in the land of Uz whom God calls “His blameless and upright servant, Job”. In other words, Job was a wholehearted follower of Christ and he was also a pretty wealthy man. Back in those days, your wealth was measured by how much livestock you owned, how many kids, you had, and how many slaves (Employees essentially) worked for you. (Wealth was also measured by how big your waistline was. Can I get an “amen”?) Job had all of the above until everything completely changed literally in the blink of an eye. Numerous slaves, eleven thousand livestock, and all ten of his children were all killed in a matter of seconds. Just like that, Job had lost his entire wealth and family. One can only imagine the horror, distress, and anguish that came over Job and his wife when they heard the news. If anyone had a reason to be angry with God, Job did. However, Job doesn’t respond by turning his back on God, but instead falls to the ground worshipping Him. Job cries out, “Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)
What can we take from this on how to respond to trials in our life? Something to realize is that the devil is always hard-pressed to put you down, and it’s during those moment especially when he whispers into your ear, lies. It may start with, “Did God really ?” (You fill in the blank there). Just remember that they are all lies which date all the way back to the Garden of Eden.
When we see Job responding to his calamities we have to wonder, what was he thinking? Breaking down the text we see that when Job first states, “Naked came I out of my mother's womb”, he is looking back to what God has done in his life. God has the power to give and take away life, and everything that Job owned was God’s in the first place. Job recognizes that.
Job then looks ahead to the future (“Naked shall I return thither”). Here he is acknowledging that he too will return to the ground, upon his death, and that, God holds the future in his hands. Nothing happens outside of God’s perfect will and He can use to any situation for His glory. No, God isn’t joyous when occasions of suffering come upon you, but He is all-powerful and all-knowing. Anything that has been meant for evil, God can turn around for good.
Then, as if that wasn’t enough, Job utters a profound statement of faith, “the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” He looks up to Heaven and cries out praises to God! There is one important distinctive to note here. In our sufferings and troubles in life, we are not to praise God for them, but praise Him despite everything going on. It’s not easy, but in doing so, you are declaring that you no longer are going to worry about what happens, but leave it up in God’s hands. It’s an ultimate act of faith and statement of your reliance upon Him.
One of my favorite verses, James 1:2-4 says this, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” When we go through these rough times and our Christian walk starts to get ugly, remember that there is a Father in Heaven who is waiting with open arms for His children to cry out to Him. One of the first and most important steps when going through tribulation, and trials is to come before Christ’s throne room in prayer.
One final reminder comes from 2 Corinthians 12:10 which says, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” God would never give you something that is too difficult to handle without Him to guide you through it. After all, “if God be for us, then who can stand against us?” (Romans 8:31b)
“At the timberline where the storms strike with the most fury, is where the sturdiest trees are found." – Hudson Taylor, missionary to China for 51 years.
Ham, Ken. Already Gone. Green Forest: Master Books, 2009.
Weirsbe, Warren. The Wiersbe Bible Commentary. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2007.
Thank you, Josh, for this amazing post!