Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Meaning of Trials ~

This world is not the Christian's heaven. It is the place in which to fit up for heaven. It is the scene of our life-battles, our conflicts and sorrows. While here we must, if we would be successful, have a firm grasp of the better world, where, when the warfare is ended, will be found peace and everlasting joy.

Through all our trials, which have never been fully revealed to others, we have had an unfailing Friend, who has said, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." While upon the earth, Jesus was ever touched with human woe, and although he is now ascended to his Father, and is adored by angels who swiftly speed to obey his commands, yet his heart, which loved, pitied, and sympathized with men, knows no change. It remains a heart of unchangeable tenderness still. "We have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are." Jesus is acquainted with all our trials, and he does not leave us to struggle alone with temptations, to battle alone with sin, and to be finally crushed with burden and sorrow. Through his angels he whispers to you, "Fear not; for I am with thee." "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore." "I know your sorrows; I have endured them. I am acquainted with your struggles; I have experienced them. I know your temptations; I have encountered them. I have seen your tears; I also have wept. Your earthly hopes are crushed, but let the eye of faith be uplifted, and penetrate the vail, and there anchor your hopes. The everlasting assurance shall be yours that you have a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother."

God has always tried his people in the furnace of affliction, in order to prove them firm and true, to purge from them all dross and unrighteousness. It was after Abraham and his son Isaac had borne the severest test that could be brought upon them, that God spoke through his angel to Abraham, and said: "Now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me."

The work of pruning and purifying the people of God for heaven is a great work, and it will not be accomplished without great suffering on the part of the servants of God, because it will cost them something to bring their wills into harmony with the will of Christ. We must go through the furnace till the fires have consumed the dross, and we are purified so that we reflect the divine image. Those who follow inclination, and judge from appearances, are not good judges of what God is doing. They are filled with discontent. They see failure where there is indeed triumph, a great loss where there is only gain; and like Jacob, they are ready to exclaim, when trial comes upon them, "All these things are against me!" when the fact is, that the very things of which they complained, were working for their good.

"No cross, no crown." One cannot be strong in the Lord and never experience trial. To have strength, we must have exercise. To have strong faith we must be placed in circumstances where our faith will be called forth. Just before his martyrdom, the apostle Paul said to Timothy: "Be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel, according to the power of God." It is through much tribulation that we enter the kingdom of heaven. Our Saviour was tried in every possible way, and yet he triumphed continually in God. It is our privilege under all circumstances to be strong in the strength of God and to glory in the cross of Christ.

Every follower of Christ will have a cross to bear; and when he takes it up resolutely, though in weakness and trembling, he will find that that which seemed so terrible to him is a source of strength and blessing and courage. It will be a staff to him to help him on in his weary pilgrimage through this earth. Then shall the professed follower of Christ drop his cross, and seek to please those who are deriding his Lord? Shall he, for fear he will not receive honor of men, reject and despise the cross of Christ?

What if you do suffer, dear fellow-Christian? The Master of the house suffered before you. Jesus, our Redeemer, representative and head, endured the testing process. He suffered more than we can be called upon to suffer. He bore our infirmities, and was in all points tempted like as we are. He did not suffer thus on his own account, but because of our sins, that we, relying on the merits of our Overcomer, might be victorious in his name. Christ was the exalted and glorious commander of heaven, before whom the angelic hosts bowed in adoration, yet he condescended to give up his glory that he had with the Father, that he might save a fallen race; and shall we, in our turn, refuse to deny ourselves for his sake and the gospel's? Let the words of Paul be the language of our hearts: "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."

Christ requires all. His sacrifice was too great, too dear, to make it possible that we should give less than all, and be accepted. Our holy faith cries out, Separation. We should not be conformed to the world, or to dead, heartless professors. The Scripture says, "Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind." The way to heaven is a self-denying way. But when you think the way is too strait, and there is too much self-denial in the narrow path; when you say, How hard to give up all, ask yourselves the question, What did Christ give up for me? This question puts anything that we might call self-denial in the shade. Behold him in the garden of Gethsemane. Look upon the great drops of blood that are forcing themselves from his pores while he is bearing the inexpressible agony of soul. Look upon him in the judgment hall while he is derided, mocked, and insulted by the infuriated mob. Behold him clothed in that old purple robe, and hear the coarse jest and cruel mocking. See them place the crown of thorns on that noble brow, and smite him with a reed, causing the thorns to penetrate his holy temples, so that the blood-drops trickle down his face and fall upon the ground. Hear the murderous throng eagerly crying for the blood of the Son of God. He is delivered into their hands, and pale, and weak, and fainting, he is led away to the hill of crucifixion. They stretch his form upon the cross, and drive the nails through his tender hands and feet. Behold him hanging upon the cross through dreadful hours of agony until angels vail their faces from the scene, and the sun hides his light, refusing to shine upon the dreadful sight. Think of these things, and then ask, Is the way too strait?

O that every one might realize that Jesus has something in store for him vastly better than that which he would choose for himself! Would that all might come to understand the exceeding sinfulness of sin and the blessedness of righteousness! Would that all might see how powerless is all effort to contend with Omnipotence! Man is doing the greatest injury to his own soul when he thinks and acts contrary to the mind and will of God. He is sowing to his flesh, and of the flesh he will reap corruption. No real joy can be found in the path forbidden by God, who knows what is best, and who plans for the good of his creatures. In order to be happy ourselves, we must live to make others happy. We must yield our possessions, our talents, and our affections, in grateful devotion to Christ, and in this way we may find happiness here and immortality hereafter.

The most trying experiences in the Christian life may be the most blessed. The special providences of the dark hours may encourage the soul in the future attacks of Satan, and equip the soul to stand most fiery trials. The trial of your faith is more precious than gold. But in order to endure the test, you must have that faith, that abiding confidence in God, that will not be disturbed by the arguments and temptations of the deceiver. Take the Lord at his word. Study the promises, and appropriate them as you have need. "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Happy is the man, who, when tempted, finds his soul rich in the knowledge of the Scriptures, who finds shelter beneath the promises of God. "Thy word," said the psalmist, "have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee." We need that calm, steady faith, that undaunted moral courage, that none but Christ can give, in order that we may be braced for trial and strengthened for duty.

While on earth there will be no escape from conflicts and temptations; but in every storm we have a sure refuge. Jesus has told us, "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." The forces of Satan are marshaled against us, and we have to meet a diligent foe; but if we take heed to the admonition of Christ, we shall be safe. "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." There are foes to be resisted and overcome, but Jesus is by our side, ready to strengthen us for every attack. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." Faith sees Jesus standing as our Mediator at the right hand of God. Faith beholds the mansions that Jesus has gone to prepare for those who love him. Faith sees the robe and the crown all prepared for the overcomer. Faith hears the song of the redeemed, and brings eternal glories near. We must come close to Jesus in loving obedience if we would see the King in his beauty. There is peace in believing, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Believe! Believe! My soul cries, Believe! Rest in God. He is able to keep that which you have committed to him, and will bring you off more than conqueror through him that has loved you.

But remember that every one who shall be found with the wedding garment on will have come out of great tribulation. The mighty surges of temptation will beat upon all. But the long night of watching, of toil, of hardship, is nearly past. Christ is soon to come. Get ready! The angels of God are seeking to attract you from yourself and from earthly things. Let them not labor in vain. Faith, living faith, is what you need; the faith that works by love and purifies the soul. Remember Calvary and the awful, the infinite sacrifice there made for man. Jesus now invites you to come to him, just as you are, and make him your strength and your everlasting Friend.
{RH, April 17, 1894 par. 12}

No comments:

Post a Comment