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Monday, March 25, 2013

Trials, Troubles, and Truth

          We live in a world that is different from thirteen years ago. The world is different from a generation ago. People speak of how different things are. They give examples of disrespect to adults and authority. They speak of fear of crime and wars. They even voice that weather is not the same; it is more violent. I consider these things and see that, yes, a lack of respect for authority figures and humans is evident. I live the change of the physical environment. People are losing heart and faith in humanity. They are erecting walls around their homes. These people are installing security systems in their homes, cars, and work places. Security companies patrol in their personal spheres of living. People are removing their landline telephones to avoid intrusion into their private lives, but at the same time, they are more involved in the cyber-world through emails and social networks. People are afraid, but they are lonely, too, and trying to fill the vacuum from a lack of relationships. This is America.

       Let us consider worldwide. There is rampant poverty, hunger, crime, wars, and religious intolerance. There is corruption, abuse, fear, and a breakdown in human relationships. Consider it this way; everyone experiences trials. Do not think I am discounting how hard trials are, but consider, everyday types of trials and severe types of trials affect everyone. When we are going through our particular hard time, we feel it is the hardest thing to do. It is hard. I very seldom meet people who are thankful they went through a trial. In time, though, we look outside ourselves and see other people are having a more difficult time in life. We see there are harder times people endure, such as mass genocide, religious persecution, executions, starvation, and becoming separated from family when fleeing for their lives. We live in this world.  
            A few people might say, oh, we must be getting near the end times. People might be shocked at first, but then gradually return to their jobs or school and forget what is happening elsewhere. I am not trying to say we are crass and unfeeling. What I am trying to make understood is that, for the largest number of us, persecution is a word in our vocabulary that sharply breaks into our mind periodically with media images and reports, but we do not live persecuted, so we do not take much notice of it. For millions of people, though, persecuted living is their reality. They are hunted by military regimes because of their culture or their faith. They are running in fear through forests, jungles, or deserts to get away from a present reality of torture, forced military service, prison, or execution. We each experience our own trials, but many million are in this world right now experiencing their trials that are “unto death.”     
            The statistics of these trials and persecutions point to areas around the globe predominantly near the equator, but include China, India, and North Korea, as well. With the violence, we hear reported from these places, we think the end times are coming. We do not know that is true; we only understand what is happening. Jesus stated, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone (Matthew 24:36 NASB). We may be in the end time or we may not be; what is important is we keep living and believing in Jesus Christ as our Savior. Without Jesus, living our lives, wherever we are, is futile. What is the purpose of living through this?  
            Let me offer a thought. God’s purpose for allowing trials is to strengthen His children in their faith and character and their dependence upon Him. His purpose for allowing trials in the lives of nonbelievers is so they will turn to Him as their Savior and Father in heaven. I understand our ease to blame bad things on God because He let them happen. What if we took the positive view, though, and considered that He allowed them to happen to teach us He will take care of us, to teach us He is stronger than the situation. We must come to the point where we learn that we must quit fighting this trial in our own strength and allow God to take charge. When we have come through the trial, we are stronger Christians. How does that work, though, for those going through extreme trials and persecution? I do not know exactly. I have heard a few stories from those surviving extreme trials. We do not often receive news from those who survived religious persecution through torture, imprisonment, removal of human rights, and wars. From what I have heard and read, several persecuted believers say they waited on the Lord and endured through prayer, reviewing memorized Bible verses, singing hymns, and talking to other believers in the places where they were held. God is still God in the midst of persecutions and He works to grow a stronger believer in these circumstances, as He does in our lives. Through their prayers, verses, songs, and encouragements from other believers, they became stronger and endured their trials while remaining in their faith. Yes, a few people do recant their faith. There are people who do not recant and are killed or die. A few people do not recant and live. Either way, these latter two came out of the difficult experience changed; they are stronger believers.  
 We each will go through trials, whether severe or not. God gives us the opportunity to rely upon our own strength or rely on His strength, which will take us through the fire and make us stronger. Whichever way we choose to face the trial, if we relied on God, we are saved to live now on earth or to live now in His heaven. Either way, God is victorious. If we do not reply on God, we may survive the trial in our own strength or we may not. What is important to know, though, is that we have not actually won. Our unbelief has won us a temporary respite on this earth, but we cannot experience eternal victory in heaven without God and His plan for salvation through Jesus Christ. John said, “He (Jesus) must increase and I must decrease.” John trusted Jesus was the one for whom he was making the way. Jesus is God’s anointed One through whose death and resurrection we can obtain eternal life. John understood that he was only a man, but Jesus is the One sent by God. He acknowledged that when he said, "He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true” (John 3:31, 33 NASB).
John and others came to believe that God is true. People from the beginning of the world understood God was true. Consider Adam, Abraham, Moses, Noah, David, the prophets, and now John the Baptist. They knew then God was true. John bore witness to the fact Jesus is God’s Son, come to take away the sins of the world.
 If you had to go through an intense time or trial, what would you do? Would you blame God for letting that happen to you? Alternatively, would you become strong in the Lord knowing He has already conquered all things and He will get you through your time now? The latter will make you into a believer. The former will make you tired and, maybe even quit. Are you going through a trial now? Are you going to let God be your strength? One day we may have to fight the extreme trials we hear of in other countries where Satan’s slaves are creating life-changing problems. Now is the time to grow in the strength of the Lord, before you go through horrendous times, so that you can stand strong now and forever more. Right now, Jesus is offering you a relationship with Him, the relationship of which you have a void in your life. This relationship is unbounded, unforced, and all loving. God wants only what is best for you, peace, love, and eternal life with Him in heaven. He will give you everything you need to live now, on this earth, and forever…Love, Faith, Hope, and Peace