May 20, 2010
And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5: 3-5)
Is it possible, and even likely, that God allows us to face trials, temptations, hardships, tribulations, storms, and all the like, strictly because He desires that we be true men (and women) of Godly character? The passage in Romans 5 implies that without tribulation (Webster defines it as distress or suffering resulting from oppression or persecution; also: a trying experience) we will not yield the greater promise of hope.
God has been revealing so much to me lately about just how serious He is concerning my character. I've wondered and questioned countless times as to why life has been so challenging over the past 16 months. Why, at the very time that I chose to deny my flesh and follow Christ in faith, did I find myself struggling so helplessly to find His hope? I've gone through great bouts of doubt and unbelief as God has allowed tribulation to shape my inner man. God has repeatedly subjected me to the same lessons of trust because I have yet to learn His undeniable faithfulness. The author of Hebrews said it this way;
"The Lord disciplines those he loves,
and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. (Hebrews 12:6-8)
I should not find myself caught off-guard when Christ Himself - the same loving, caring, kindhearted friend, drives me to my knees in frustration over unchanging circumstances. It's in these times that I question where God's presence resides. Where has He gone? Why does it seem that He is no longer speaking to me? Did I do something wrong? Likely my pride is what prevents me from seeing that He is desperately wanting me to endure so that I would attain a hope that would not disappoint.
You should know that God cares far more for your depth of character than for the success of your ministry or calling. We should never measure ministry apart from character because the two are mutually inclusive. They are meant to go hand in hand. The greater the character, the greater the ministry.....or so we hope. No matter how much it might appear that we are fulfilling some eternal favor towards God, let this be a reminder that He is going about the business of training men willing to obey His voice. I'm not convinced it's possible to properly hear His voice apart from the tribulations and discipline that cause us to run quickly into arms always held open for us. No matter how hard your life's situation might be right now, ask God to give you the strength to "glory" in your tribulation. It's in these times that He can develop you into a useful object of His affections. Fear not, you are dearly loved. Loved so much that this Father will not allow you to run off into the glamor of church, ministry, a lifestyle of worship, or even servant of all. His plan is to first protect you from yourself. His plan is to first protect me from myself. I believe that I'm personally capable of doing deeper damage to myself over any nasty work the Devil could unleash on me.
I'm slowly learning how much God loves to develop each of us into the proper cities set-apart on high hills for the world to see. He wants to show off a finished product that clearly reflects His perfection. I wonder how many of us rush off into Kingdom war before we've been properly trained. I write all of this to tell you that I am finally finding myself exceedingly grateful for every ounce of hardship God has allowed me to endure along this road (which, by comparison to many, is not much to write about). My prayer is that God would give us grace to endure. I need more grace. You need it too.
Lord, please prepare us for the positions of tribulation designed by Your hands to release us into the glorious future as Your children. Help us to desire a ministry of noble character the way you do.