I am stronger now than I have been at any point in my Christian life. For this strength I praise God for my strength is from Him.
In many ways these days of my life are very difficult. As I minister to my elderly and sick parents, prepare our last child for his launch into the adult world in the next few years, and serve others in ministry I frequently find I am weary of it all. I wonder, “How on earth do I have the stamina for all this?” This season of life also includes the change of life as I transition into middle age and turn that corner that brings the finish line closer into view.
I know beyond any doubt that had my life contained these current circumstances 5 years ago I would not have withstood the test of these days. I am learning to persevere.
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. Romans 5:3-5
We typically use this passage to bring ourselves comfort as we endure various difficulties but that is not the context of the passage. These tribulations Paul speaks of here are persecutions for our faith. In other words, I can say that the trials I face today are preparing me for the persecutions that are to come. Does our enemy use the world system and its various players to needle and jab at us- sure! However, these are merely the precursor for future events.
God is gracious. He brings and allows small things (relatively speaking) to come our way and build our faith. I would never say that chronic illness or cancer or abuse are small things and yet in the grand scope of God’s plan they are not on par with what is to come for the Christian. They like their lesser fellow troubles are training grounds and proving grounds. They help you and me to know what stuff we are made of. They deepen our faith and trust in God for the hours to come.
We persevere, we press on, we move forward in spite of and in the midst of pain and misery. We live out the definition of the word as we continue working in the face of strong opposition and great obstacles. Were our lives easy and trouble free as we often wish for; there would be no strength and little substance to our faith!
The character of a Christian is proven under stress. I admit that as I am placed under more and more stress the sin in my life leaks out through the stress cracks in my character. This is sure not something I glory in, but I am thankful for it nonetheless. God uses these times to reveal my flaws and give me the opportunity to be changed in these days of relative ease. (I say that because no one is at this point in time demanding that I must renounce my faith, nor am I being threatened with arrest or death because of my faith) I would not want to learn my weaknesses when my character must be like cast iron under the pressure of persecution.
Think about the times you are tempted to just give up and chuck the whole Christian life because the pagan way appears so much easier…if you are honest with yourself, you know you have such times occasionally. The good news is that you have not bowed under that pressure to this point in your Christian life and you won’t if you are a true believer in Christ. God is keeping you, (Psalm 121:3, Jude 1:24) and your perseverance is by the grace of God as He is preparing you in little steps for the days of persecution.
As you succeed through each of these times of temptation hope is built within you. Not the world’s hope that disappoints, but hope that sees that God is truly faithful!