Knowing this present life will not be our best gives us hope worth dying for.
Excited about my newfound faith in Jesus Christ, I couldn’t wait to sit down and talk with a pastor; I had so many questions. My then-girlfriend Laurie and I traveled to her hometown in Southwest Virginia to speak with her childhood pastor to answer my questions and talk about baptism. Pastor Chuck loomed over his office desk, a large and stately man in his 50’s that had transitioned out of the coal mines of Virginia to follow the calling into ministry.
To say that I was intimidated from the moment I entered his office would be an understatement. From his large hands that swallowed mine when we shook to his booming bass voice that welcomed me in, Pastor Chuck communicated conviction, faith, and power by his words and body language; this was a man marked with confidence that inspired others to believe. Sitting in a chair facing his desk, I told Pastor Chuck about my recent salvation and my desire to be baptized; even sharing my testimony caused me to be filled with excitement all over again. After planning out my future baptism service; I moved on to my most pressing question, “Pastor Chuck, I know forgiveness, joy, and love like never before. If all of these blessings are evident this early in my walk of faith, what can I look forward to with a life in Christ?”. Pastor Chuck leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms, and looking at me as a doctor with a terminal diagnosis would look at a patient just before relaying the bad news. I will never forget his next words, “Brother Tom, you are now an enemy of the devil, this world, and your flesh. You must be prepared. In your life, you will experience a trial by fire; a circumstance the likes of which you’ve never had to endure before.” I left the office that day a little discouraged, with “trial by fire” resonating in my head like a ghostly voice echoing the halls of a house in a bad horror flick.
Thirty years later, I realize his words to be valid. Yet, Jesus didn’t leave us unprepared; he told believers often that this world is full of pain and sorrow, our flesh is at constant war with the Spirit, and Satan and his legion of demons are now targeting us to destroy our testimony, weaken our influence, and hurt the very heart of God (Ecc. 2:23, I Pet. 5:8, Mt. 26:41, Eph. 4:30).
I have gone through some severe trials in my life, and there are many more around the corner, of that I am confident. However, my faith is stronger than ever because my hope is anchored to the throne of God. I believe attitude has much to do with the victories we claim over such times of hardships. Our choir director used to lead our adult congregation with the words, “this joy that I have, the world didn’t give it to me…the world didn’t give it, and the world can’t take it away”. What a wonderful reminder that every good and perfect gift is from above and protected by the Father of Lights (James 1:17).
I am confident that you have endured some great times of trial and tribulation, times when you didn’t think any more tears could be produced; like your very heart had been ripped out from your chest. Let me remind you that while we are told in this life, we will have tribulation, this life is short, and the next life will be more extraordinary forever (John 16:33, Ja. 4:14, Mt. 6:19-20).
Please consider Chrysostom’s following historical account, a man who would have told a young, newly saved and excited, Tom McCracken, the same thing Pastor Chuck did.
Chrysostom was “a godly leader in the fourth-century church, who preached so strongly against sin that he offended the unscrupulous Empress Eudoxia as well as many church officials. When summoned before Emperor Arcadius, Chrysostom was threatened with banishment if he did not cease his uncompromising preaching.
His response was, “Sire, you cannot banish me, for the world is my Father’s house.” “Then I will slay you,” Arcadius said. “Nay, but you cannot, for my life is hid with Christ in God,” came the answer. “Your treasures will be confiscated,” was the next threat, to which John replied, “Sire, that cannot be, either. My treasures are in heaven, where none can break through and steal.” “Then I will drive you from man, and you will have no friends left!” was the final, desperate warning. “That you cannot do, either,” answered John, “for I have a Friend in heaven who has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’”
John was indeed banished, first to Armenia, and then farther away to Pityus on the Black Sea, to which he never arrived because he died on the way. But neither the banishment nor his death disproved or diminished his claims. The things that he valued most highly not even an emperor could take from him.”MacArthur, John. Matthew 1–28.In MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Moody Publishers, 1989.
Scripture: “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 8:38-39, ESV
Question: Have you allowed circumstances to disrupt your life instead of serving as a reminder of the hope you have in Jesus Christ?
Prayer: Father, I am weak. There are times when I feel that everything around me is collapsing and falling apart. Please help me remember that all of the blessings you have freely given can’t be touched by Satan or circumstance. Thank you for the firm foundation of your love; the peace that passes understanding, the strength to endure, the faith to believe, and a future worthy of high expectation. Please help me during the seasons of trials to remember that you have a plan. Please help me see that no matter how trying my life may get, there is coming a day when you will wipe away every tear, still every mind, change every body, fix everything broken, right every wrong, and make all things new. Thank you for loving me. In the name of Jesus Christ, I pray. Amen.