Shonebarger

The pressures of life can generate many problems. Physically, pressure can cause hypertension, ulcers, headaches and numerous other critical, life-threatening health issues. Emotionally, pressure can produce stress, depression, insomnia, potential drug and alcohol dependency and suicidal thoughts. Pressure also affects a person’s spiritual life. Fear, worry, doubt, indifference and hopelessness may result for those facing the most difficult trials.

Yes, there are trials and tribulations that each of us encounter on the journey of life. Jesus emphasized that in this world we would have tribulation (John 16:33). Most certainly, we all have problems. Wouldn’t it be nice to find a cabin in the woods beside a pure mountain creek, with no phones, no Internet and to be trouble free? Yes, that would be a nice retirement, but our lives continue in our reality amidst the intense pressure cooker of life. We are each compelled to move forward, to overcome and to finish our lives well.

First-century Christians experienced horrendous persecution. Under the rule of Rome, Nero was infamous for dipping Christians in tar and setting them ablaze to light night chariot races and garden parties. Indeed, the persecuted believers were running and hiding for their lives. It is difficult for us to imagine being dispersed from our homes, jobs and places of worship in our hometowns in fear of our lives. Yet, this was the peril they faced as they fled Jerusalem to other cities throughout Israel and other countries.

As the Apostle Peter wrote his first letter to the new Christian converts scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, he exhorted them in their faith. He declared: “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” (I Peter 1:7-8 KJV).

The terminology of “fiery trial” caught their attention as a result of Nero’s persecution. Their faith was being tested to the uttermost. The well-known Bible teacher Warren Wiersbe taught that “a faith that cannot be tested, cannot be trusted!” Let us emphasize that God is sovereign over all the affairs of our lives to include the trials we encounter.

Trials of our faith teach us about God and His faithfulness, His provision, His love, mercy and grace. Trials also teach us about our own personal faith; its strengths and weaknesses. Trials teach us about other’s faith as well. Examples of witnessing other’s faith are Lot’s wife as she disobeyed God’s command to flee Sodom without looking back and was turned into a pillar of salt. In addition, Job learned about his wife’s faith as she declared to curse God and die after the loss of their family and possessions in a series of disasters. Trials will come. A child of God will be tested. This testing will reveal the quality, depth and strength of the believer’s faith.

Peter commended the persecuted, dispersed Christians for their faith. Its quality was “much more precious than gold that perisheth!” What a wonderful commendation! Gold is purified in the fire, yet, ultimately, gold will perish. Faith is put into the fiery crucible through the trials of life. Acts of faith will be recorded, preserved and rewarded by Jesus one day. Please observe that their faith was precious, valuable and eternal. Their faith testified of their love and devotion to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Lord Jesus is invisible to the natural eye. However, following an invisible Lord was an act of faith for these people. They loved Him because He first loved them. They had a personal relationship with Christ, having been saved by grace through faith in Jesus’ sacrificial death at Calvary, His shed blood for the remission of their sins and His glorious resurrection.

Persecution, trials and death of their loved ones did not circumvent their faith. Their love for Christ and their unwavering faith produced “joy unspeakable and full of glory!” Their faith was built on the solid rock of Christ and nothing would shake it. Moreover the joy they felt in their heart and the blessings they received from the goodness of God was beyond description. Realize joy is an inside job. It’s not what happens to you, it’s what happens in you. Joy is a product of loving devotion and faith in Christ, who gives it to His faithful children abundantly.

We will each be experiencing our own trials. Let us endeavor to stand strong in our faith for Christ. Amidst the storm we will find comfort, strength and hope. Let us each report, after the storm has passed, the joy we encountered on the journey. Have a great week and remember, Jesus loves YOU!

Contact Jon Shonebarger at jtshonebarger@gmail.com.

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