(By: Norm Rasmussen, Director, Precious Testimonies)
GOD IS CONCERNED ABOUT YOUR ETERNAL SPIRITUAL WELL-BEING!
We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. -- 2 Corinthians 4:18
The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs -- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. If indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. -- Romans 8:16-17
It is so true! God is more concerned about your eternal spiritual well-being than anything else in your life. God has plans for you in eternity that requires you to be spiritually mature, and spiritual maturity only comes through trials - through testings - through hardships. For those who truly belong to Jesus Christ ... they are going to be granted the highest privilege God could give them. They will ultimately rule and reign with Him for all eternity.
Some people reading this statement might become angry, and might think something like this: 'Well, God, if you're so concerned about my well-being ' why am I going through so many trials and hardships - huh?! Why is life so hard and unfair!?'
Please note "eternal" above is highlighted. That's often where the difficulty or struggle lies. We want heaven and constant blessing now! (I'm in that category much too often - I admit it!). We do not like the idea that this life is our testing ground -- our proving ground -- the place where God is testing us, and at the same time birthing Godly character in us. "Ugh!" ... is our human, earthly response to being tested and having "Godly character" formed in us.
If I was a multi-billionaire, and walked up to you and asked you what you would rather have: "A billion dollars, no strings attached ... or, Godly character," which would you chose? Be honest. If you chose the billion bucks, you flunk. In God's way of valuing what true wealth is ... He looks at us through His "character microscope."
Suffering, hardships, disappointments, difficulties ... are never pleasant, but that is what much of life is all about, and for very important reasons to God. Nothing else but suffering (and especially "unjust-suffering") develops the rich wealth of character that God is developing in those who choose to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and remain in that relationship at any cost, no matter how rocky the path may be.
Godly character is priceless because without it ... we will never be able to be trusted to handle the responsibilities God has intended for us in eternity. We will have assignments - responsibilities - from God, and they will produce great pleasure and joy: both for us, others, and most importantly - God. However ... those responsibilities come with a great price. You might want to make special note of this, before we move on: Salvation is free. (Though it cost God His life in the most humiliating, satanically sadistic way!). Having Godly character birthed in us is EXTREMELY costly, and more often than not - extremely painful.
Difficulties - trials - tests us. Difficulties can tempt people to get bitter and angry at God, and turn away from Him for a season, if not forever. OR ... suffering causes people ultimately to draw closer to God in their pain. You are in this second category ... I truly hope.
Testing also includes training. At the same time God allows us to be tested, He is training His people...training His people to equip them to co-reign with Him through eternity. (This principle of testing and training is best understood if you have ever been in basic training in the military or, and/or in advanced military or police training).
As the "blow-torch" of God gets hot enough on us in this life at different times and in different seasons ... we'll begin to see quite clearly what our spiritual foundation has really been built on. God already knows what our foundation is built on at any given time, and He may be wanting us to "alter" or "modify" our foundation. Certain types of suffering shows us where there are weaknesses in our spiritual foundation.
The genuineness of our faith -- our Christian foundation -- our "rocket launch pad for eternity" can never be fully secure and trustworthy until it gets sufficiently tested first. (Every military commander understands this universal reality, as does every CEO of every major corporation, as well as every career politician). When we come up against sufficient opposition, any weaknesses we have will get exposed. Until we have our weaknesses revealed, they most likely will never be turned into strengths through the help of, and likeness of Christ.
You may be content to be a 10-inch rocket to forego further suffering. God -- being your rocket Designer and Engineer and Quality-Control Inspector -- most likely has plans for you being a 10-story rocket if not bigger!
Scripture tells us in 1 Peter 1:6-9:
... You have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith -- the salvation of your souls.
[The revelation of Jesus Christ" spoken of above ... is when born again Christian believers receive their glorified bodies -- bodies that will be incorruptible and capable of experiencing God's glory and joy in dimensions that are too great to comprehend right now!]
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. - James 1:12
What causes (tempts) us to be angry with God? Isn't is always because we don't like the way He is doing things -- allowing things to happen in our lives that seems to be so cruel; that seems to be so unfair?
'Look God, I don't like how I'm being treated by you! You are not treating me the way I expected and/or hoped you would!'
'I' and 'me' is always wrapped up in our conflict with God, if we'll be honest with ourselves. God calls our condition: "Selfishness." Ugh ...
God knows just how much pain it will take in each of us to reveal our selfishness. If the floodgate of pain opens wider and wider, we will reach that point where temptation overwhelms and usually takes control of us and we have to admit if we'll be honest with ourselves that we just would do things differently if we were God!
God wants many of His followers to see for themselves this side of eternity just how much selfishness resides inside them. He wants selfishness dealt with in certain ones of us prior to our passing over into eternity and "fire" is His number one instrument of choice to accomplish it. (Fire as in trials, persecutions and unjust sufferings. Read Daniel 12:10, if you haven't lately).
Believe me, I speak from great experience! I could give you testimony after testimony where I've gotten so angry with God about how I was being treated that I just wanted a chance to personally tell Him face to face what kind of cruel and uncompassionate God He has to be! I'm fully persuaded God knows just how much pressure to allow to come on each of us before we start to come spiritually unraveled. Yet by the grace and mercy of God our Father and Jesus Christ, and by the help of the Holy Spirit, He doesn't let us stay unraveled for very long, and we come to our senses and tell Him we're sorry for being so angry (selfish) and that our goal is to be thankful for all things that God allows to happen in our lives, because He's the rocket launch pad builder and rocket builder and we are not.
In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
... Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 5:20)
God is constantly monitoring our attitude and gratitude. Both are a decision on our part, no matter how painful it might be.
When I'm thankful to God for both blessing and hardship ' blessing and trials ' no matter how hard and painful they might be, or how 'unfair' or "cruel" they seem, God gives us a greater measure of His grace to put down and smother our selfishness, and keep serving Him in our pain until He lifts it. If He doesn't lift it this side of eternity, we have to come to agreement with Him that somehow, some way, it has been allowed to work for God's glory and our own eternal good, as Romans 8:28 and 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 promises it does:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
The painful loss of a loved one in an untimely death; the pain of sickness and disease tearing us apart, or a loved one apart; great financial loss; painful divorces; pain caused in children because of a divorce; sexual molestation and perversions, especially against innocent children; ravages of war, ravages of poverty; ravages of greed; ravages of loneliness and isolationism; prison; starvation, children who have no parents or even a home to live in, racial and ethnic discrimination - prejudices ... the list can go on and on.
Does God take actual delight in these things happening to us? No! But through all the suffering and hardship life and evil hands us ... God is telling us in the above scripture that He will use all of our heartache and turn it into an eternal blessing for us ... somehow ... someway ... if we'll keep trusting Him to be our Savior and Lord through it all.
Here is a revelation shared by a dear friend of ours, Renee, (who happens to be legally blind), about hardships and trials that some find difficult to accept, yet is very helpful in understanding suffering - hardships: God seldom sacrifices character growth at the expense of our comfort.
God makes it clear to Christian believers in the Bible that earth is not our home ... at least the earth as we know it now, which is why we must build a sure and solid foundation in Christ and in Truth (God's Word) to endure down here, until we get to heaven. Sin and selfishness and deception covers the earth in its present form like the worst cancerous plague. When Jesus Christ returns, that will get changed, but until that time comes, the earth is only going to grow darker from the affects of sin and demonic activity.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)
If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1-2)
For the most part, a Christian will grow frustrated very quickly trying to set their mind on things above by by-passing Matthew 6:33.
God delights in blessing us in this life as we are obedient to Him, but more so throughout eternity. Be greatly thankful when He does "bless you" in this life (bless is really a relative term) -- things can change quickly, as I'm sure you realize. It certainly did for believers in the early Church. Many died cruelly for their belief in Christ, as have many since, right up through to the present moment.
Salvation (forgiveness for our sins and assurance that heaven will be our home) is the greatest blessing He could give us! Yet God also tests us, for our good, and will even use Satan's attacks against us oftentimes to be part of that testing. (As the Bible tells us that God raised up Pharaoh for the explicit purpose of trying the Jewish people ... suppose Satan and his demons might be fulfilling a similar purpose for Christians on God's behalf?).
Whatever means God chooses to use, don't let pain and disappointment be a wedge the devil uses to entice you to separate yourself from God. Let it become glue that sticks you to our Creator. None of us know how much we'll lose out on in eternity ... let alone in this life ... if we let our anger and bitterness and selfishness and discouragement and frustration drive us away from God.
When a person is able to come to the place where they have set their mind to never again allow hardships and pain to trigger anger at God and subsequent rebellion to different degrees towards Him ... they have become the most wealthy people in the world. That is God's definition of true spiritual prosperity.
Dear one ... purpose to be the most spiritually wealthy person in all the world! It is God's will for each of us. It is tops on His agenda ... for all eternity. You can be dead broke financially and obtain it, or you can be a multi-billionaire and never have enough money to buy it.
Allow me to conclude with a few scriptures that gives a "hint" to our future as believers in Christ:
"Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, (Trials - Testings; insert here - the trial(s) YOU may be going through right now) but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand." -- Daniel 12:10
And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.
Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. -- Daniel 12:2-8 [Tip: Read Proverbs 11:30 and Matthew 6:33 ... if you want to become a wise spiritual investor].
But someone will say, "How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?"
Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. And what you sow, you do not sow that body that shall be, but mere grain -- perhaps wheat or some other grain.
But God gives it a body as He pleases, and to each seed its own body. (1 Corinthians 15:35-38)
There are also celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another star in glory.
So also is the resurrection of the dead. The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. (1 Corinthians 15:40-43)
In closing ... if you haven't already checked out this video or these three writings about WHY God allows trials in our life, you can do so by clicking on the following links:
The following is a PRICELESS video message on this topic of suffering - trials - character growth - future rewards on the Resurrection Day - that I couldn't recommend more HIGHLY for ALL to listen to: Mike Bickle- Enduring Tests that Lead to Receiving Crowns
Dear Reader - are you at peace with God? If not, you can be. Do you know what awaits you when you die? You can have the assurance from God that heaven will be your home, if you would like to be certain. You can even have that assurance RIGHT NOW! Either Jesus Christ died for your sins, or He didn't (He did!). Are you prepared to stand before God on the Judgment Day and tell Him that you didn't need the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the Cross to have your sins forgiven and get in right-standing with God? We plead with you...please don't make such a tragic mistake.
To get to know God, to be at peace with God, to have your sins forgiven, to make certain heaven will be your home for eternity, to make certain that you are in right-standing with God right now ... please click here to help you understand the importance of being reconciled to God. What you do about being reconciled to God will determine where you will spend eternity, precious one. Your decision to be reconciled to God is the most important decision you'll ever make in this life, because in Christ, it is impossible to put a value on the worth of your soul in light of eternity.
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Remember: All that we do in this life comes back to our God-given purpose which is to serve and glorify God. The money and assets we accumulate, the fame and power we've attained or seek to attain - all of the things of this nature will one day pass away, but those lives of others we impact for Jesus Christ will last for eternity, and we will be rewarded for the part we helped play by impacting those lives ... for eternity. (Matthew 6:19-20 is our assurance)