by Mike Ratliff
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (1 Peter 4:12-17 ESV)
This being the day after Christmas 2006, God has, as He always does with me, made sure that I reflected much over the last several days on the drive we all have to attempt to find a sense of happiness, peace, joy, or what have you in our circumstances. I caught myself several times over the last few weeks waxing melancholic in a attempt to “be happy” because of supposed circumstances where I could relax and be fulfilled because of Christmas causing things to happen that brought back special memories. Depression seemed to be gaining ground several times because that “Christmas Spirit” didn’t seem to be taking hold.
As I reflected on this I became ashamed because I have plenty. I am very blessed. I have a roof over my head. I have all the clothes I will ever need. I have a wife and two grown children. I have a great job. It seems that there is a “spirit” of discontent trying to conquer me. It is attempting to drive me to seek more and more stuff or to do more and more interesting, exciting things in order to be fulfilled here and now. Don’t I deserve it?
Of course, you all know that I know better than this. I am fully aware that the Christian is born again. He or she is a new creation that is not of this world. For them to be materialistic or secular minded is a great sin. Why? God saved all believers for a specific purpose.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, 8 which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. 13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:3-14 ESV)
All in Christ are saved by God because He chose them, set His heart on them, worked out everything in their lives to bring them to repent and believe. Why? It was so that they would be holy and blameless before Him. His plan is to adopt them so they would Jesus Christ’s siblings. Why? It was for the purpose of His will to the praise of His glorious grace. All in Christ were saved by Him according to His purpose, not theirs. Does this mean that they were saved into a life to be free from torment or persecution or hardship or sickness or poverty or conflict?
Salvation seals Christians in Christ eternally, however, in this temporal existence, suffering is the number one thing God uses to perfect them in Christ. This sanctifying work of God can be quite stressful, painful, even deadly. However, Peter tells us in 2 Peter chapter 4 that we should not be surprised when we find ourselves in fiery trials. Why? As long as Christians suffer for righteousness sake they share in the sufferings of Christ. This glorifies God and marks Christians who suffer this way as being His chosen ones.
We must never forget that this world is not the home of those washed in the blood of the Lamb. He shed His blood because that was the cup the Father gave Him to drink.
11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:11 ESV)
Jesus obediently laid down His life because that was the Father’s will. It was part of His eternal plan to redeem His people. He did not save them to be part of this world. He did not save them for them to find their fulfillment in the temporal. He saved them for His glory and that happens only when they operate in the eternal by the power of the Holy Spirit. They exist in the temporal, but are seperate. They are holy as God is Holy. They are separate from the contamination of this evil world. They seek God’s glory in all things because they know that an attempt to be fulfilled in anyone or anything except Him is a great sin.
When God’s people succeed in living this way is there some change or mark in their lives that shows everyone that they are different? Won’t they take on Christ’s character when they are Spirit-led? Won’t they take on the world’s character when they aren’t? Aren’t the world’s ways antithetical to Christ’s ways? Sure they are. Isn’t the world consumed with fairness? If that is so, then what should we think of those who demand that God be fair? Fairness speaks of judgement. Do we want God’s judgment? I don’t and I submit that you don’t either. In that case we should not demand that God be fair. Instead we should seek His grace. In this scenario we will not look at our circumstances as if they should be fair or demand that they be so. Instead we should see our circumstances as the tests and trials God is using to humble us and build Christ’s character in us.
If you suffer from circumstantial depression as I do then praise the Lord for not allowing you to become satisfied with the temporal. Instead, rejoice that there is a day coming when you and I will be with Him in glory. In that day we will see this life from His perspective instead of the temporal. We will then see that all the things in our lives that we did not enjoy or suffered through were actually the fires of purification in our lives that God used to produce the character in us that brings Him glory.
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