Monday, September 19, 2005

Faith and Adversity (Part One)

Many non-believers, and perhaps, many a new Christian, are very curious about how some Christians seem to maintain such stoicism in the face of adversity, crisis, or catastrophe. Those of us who believe, and yet struggle with doubt sometimes over God’s purposes in tribulations, can take courage and comfort from Chapter 5 of Paul’s letter to the Romans.
Faith Triumphs in Trouble

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)
Faith in Jesus Christ is our pathway to peace, for Jesus is that ultimate Righteousness asked of Man by God. God spoke through the Prophet Isaiah, in promising that our reward for Righteousness would be peace, quietness (the absence of inner turmoil or contention), and assurance for eternity: This is the “peace that surpasses all understanding,” that so fascinates yet confounds those who have not found Him:
17 The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever. (Isaiah 32:17)
Yet we can’t achieve this in our own selves, when competing without a Champion with our own sinful natures. “There is none righteous, no not one,” and in our own strength without faith we cannot achieve that perfect Righteousness that would bring the peace of the Lord. But in faith, our belief in Jesus, the Son of God, cloaks us in His perfect righteousness and gives us access to that peace.

Accepting Jesus as Savior and asking that our sins be forgiven allows us to approach the throne of grace without fault or blemish. Not that we are pure, but that the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, of his sacrifice on the cross, presents us as pure before the throne of judgment. We can this have hope in the future, precisely because we can stand in His presence forgiven, and be accounted as righteous.

The promise of our redemption is about our eternal future, but dwelling in the hope of God can bring us joy and contentment today, a peace that God is our guide, a quietness of mind and heart, not that we may not be troubled, but that the concerns of each day will not eat away at our insides, that we may maintain a quietness of soul. “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine,” goes the hymn, “O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.” (Blessed Assurance, words by Fanny Crosby.)

He’s broken down the wall of separation between Creator and created; He has torn the curtain asunder to allow us entrance to the Holy of Holies, and usher us into His presence:
14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. (Ephesians 2:14-16)

6 but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:6)
This is the meaning of being Heirs of Salvation and partakers in the inheritance. Jesus has made it possible for us to be first fruits too, and join Him as new creations.

And this assurance then gives us courage and strength to endure tribulations, even find glory in them, as God lifts us up, protects and sustains us, and brings us out the other side. We persevere; we stand on God’s promise. As we endure and persevere, we grow stronger, perhaps wiser too, and more knowing of the way in which we can keep God ever-present throughout our struggles, that we might remain hopeful and not despair.
11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11, 12)

2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (James 1:2-3)
God thus works with our character, He makes us more than we would have been, without the tribulation, and without His love, and His Holy Spirit He gives to us, which dwells in us as believers. We become born of His spirit, as it indwells; we are washed in His redeeming blood, which is the start and finish of our faith and the author of our peace in Him.
12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)
We are forgiven in Christ once for all; we are purchased at the greatest price possible, the sacrifice of His own Son Jesus. As we all learn eventually when we come to faith, God’s promise does not mean our lives will be all sweetness and light ever after; but He does assure us, and we can experience, that He is with us in every trial and tribulation, and like silver or gold in a refiners fire, can be made better than what we were. God has placed His seal upon us:
21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, 22 who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Corinthians 1:21-22)
Jesus said, “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

That is what the disciples did, and they were to be anointed with the Holy Spirit of God, the Promise that Jesus spoke of. And so might all of us receive that Promise upon us, if we but put our faith in the Lord our God, and believe on His Son Jesus.

It is the indwelling Holy Spirit in us that is God’s guarantee that He will be with always, “even to the end of the Age.” (Matthew 28:20)

Coming in Part Two: Death and Rebirth


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