Saturday, July 01, 2006

Trials, Temptations, Tests, and Forever

Today's Topic: Scriptural Serving

Life is hard.

That's what I told a friend of mine the other night as we chatted after dinner.

I know what your thinking: That's profound, Captain Obvious!

It may not be profound, but it is true, and I've been reminded of that recently in several ways.
  • Today, I met with some folks to discuss the spring youth drama, Acts. For most of them, the play caused some significant and serious temptations associated with serving.
  • Tonight is this summer's only meeting for 10:31, our youth ministry. They are going to be celebrating evidences of God's mercy in the youth's recent missions trips to Mexico. However, those evidences of grace came with a cost: many people got seriously sick, especially on the second team to serve down there.
  • The video producer for 10:31 almost forgot there was a meeting tonight. Because he came in to serve, he had to postpone leaving for vacation. What would have been a calm afternoon drive is now a long, late-night trek. I'm sure there have been and will be temptations for him and his family.
I thought it would be appropriate to follow up on last week's post called Excel For Rewards in Paradise with an admission that it can be difficult to hold on to faith in the future when the serving gets difficult in the present. I found this Scripture passage from 1 Peter 1:3-9 comforting, encouraging, and provoking in the moments of my own lack of faith.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith -- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire -- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
What encourages me from this?

First, God's power and mercy, not our serving, are our confidence in the glory of heaven. He has caused us to be born again. He is guarding our inheritance. He is the one who assures it will truly be imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.

Second, our trials are only for a little while. Even though today's challenges may seem to overshadow all the joy that has come before, they are truly short in relation to eternal life.

Third, our trials purify us more than gold. Consider this: gold can be placed in fire and not perish. Yet it still has no eternal worth. Our souls, however, have even more potential for value than gold. We are tested by fire, so that on the other side of our purification, we will forever worship and praise God.

Fourth, our trials are insignificant in comparison to the wrath of God that we deserve in light of God's holiness and our sin. Through faith in Jesus' death as the substitute for our punishment, we gain the salvation of our souls. That should put all trials in a different light.

What is the result of a right understanding of trials? The result is a greater faith in God.

"Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory."

So, whatever temptations, tests, or trials you face tomorrow as you serve your church, remember why they are there: to turn you to God, to make you more like his son, to make you more grateful for his mercy, and to bring him praise and glory and honor on the last day.

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