Accepting Hardship Joyfully by Patrick Panettieri
The Bible tells us that “in this world we will have trouble.” (John 16:33) It further states to, “Count it all joy when you face trials of various kinds, knowing that the testing of your faith develops perseverance and that perseverance must finish its work so we become mature not lacking any good thing.” (James 1:4)
Our desires in life can often conflict with God’s perfect will because they are often soul led and fleshly! We instinctively seek to avoid pain of all kinds and prefer the easiest way to accomplish things. Our society encourages instant gratification and pleasure seeking. The entertainment industry and the sports industry are multi-billion dollar enterprises as people seek to fill up their lives with what they “feel” will satisfy them.
I’ve heard it said that we have raised up an entire generation of people who think that they don’t have to forsake the world in order to walk with the Lord. We’ve lost the “fear of the Lord” in our churches and have given way to materialism and human thinking! We seek the “cushion over the cross”. But I believe that God is calling out His bride and preparing her through the “fires of affliction.”
I was once in a meeting with a pastor who said “Money, it’s what makes it all go round”. But Jesus asked his disciples, “When I return will I find faith on earth”? In the Book of Revelation it says, “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich”. Riches to God are very different than what they are to us. We desire money, houses, cars and worldly wealth, while God desires a “purified faith and godly character”. That is the “gold” we are told to purchase and the price we pay for it is personal pain!
Maturity only comes at a price and its a price so many so-called Christians of today simply aren’t willing to pay! The Bible says in Isaiah 43: 1-2 “When you walk through the fire you will not be burned for I will be with you.” But this requires that you WALK through the fire, not run away from it! The path of least resistance makes both men and rivers crooked!
God has a will for our lives, but He won’t impose it on us and His will often includes sufferings, testings and trials. If it was this way for Jesus, why should it be different for us?
If you are serious about your relationship with God and desire what He wants, which is “gold refined in the fire”, then you will come to expect and embrace those time so hardship and tribulation and grow to a point where we can accept them as part of God’s plan to bring us into son-ship. “It is nice to be on the mountain tops, but the fruit grows in the valleys”.
In Romans 5: 3-4, James 1: 2-4 and 2nd Peter 1: 5-8 the writers lay down a pathway toward maturity and the common ingredient in each example is perseverance! Without perseverance there is no maturity. Mature Christians bear fruit and these are the kind of disciples the Father seeks!
Our question to God in times of trial is often “Why God?” I’ve been guilty of that myself, the the question really should be, “What does this mean and what do I need to do?” God allows by His wisdom what he could have prevented by His power!
Jesus said, “He who would come after me must first deny himself, then pick up his cross and follow me.” Denying ourselves means putting God’s interests ahead of our own, even when it hurts! It means actively participating in dying to ourselves.
Picking up our cross means to accept that God has planned a method, or methods, of “killing our flesh”. A cross was a place of a painful and slow death. God’s pruning can also be slow, but it creates “fruitful vines”. The pruned vine experiences no joy for a season! It is OK to hurt through the process, just accept that it is God’s way of bringing you more closely into His image. God is sculpting you to be HIS instrument.
Sculpting is taking a sharp, hard metal chisel and hitting it violently with a hammer to forcibly break off bits of stone to create a beautiful statue. Violent change, intense pressure, pain, loss of control, all figure into God’s sculpting process before He is done with us. But what emerges in the end is an instrument fit for noble purposes! Someone capable of producing 100-fold fruit!
The process isn’t easy and it is only meant for a season if we are willing to acquiesce to it and embrace it willingly we will come forth as gold!
As Jesus said before the cross, “Not my will but thine be done!”