God's Preparation: Trials and Challenges
July 22, 2014
Dear Friends, one of the most extraordinary things that God is showing me of late is how interconnected things are and how often we miss it. So here is the first part of an unexpected series—I say unexpected because I'd made notes for what I thought were four different posts and then realized they are very much interconnected and make a whole. I love how God does that!
I remember years ago thinking that as I got older, "things" (i.e. life in general) would get easier, because I would be wiser, more experienced (is that redundant?) and overall have a better grip on life. In some ways that has proved true, but I'm finding that the deeper I seek to walk with God, the challenges have grown. Yes, we have a relentless enemy determined to to keep us from walking in our full destiny (remember, he can't take away our salvation, but he can make us ineffective, if we let him), but we serve and love a God who is even more relentless in His love and purposes and Who WILL NOT FAIL US. He is the one we will focus upon in this series.
Challenges and trials are part of life. I've learned to accept that and realize there is no such thing as a life free of these situations. Not on this side of heaven, anyway. Take hope in this my friends, for one day our Lord Jesus will dry our tears and we will be complete (realized, fully free, perfected to completion) in His presence in the heavenly realms.
In the meantime, the foundational truth that is crucial once again for us to embrace and understand is that God is good and that He brings purpose and redemption in each of us. Not just of who we are but also from our lives—our trials, struggles, pain and even those situations and conditions that seem so impossible to us from our limited understanding and perspective. This is the heart and truth of Romans 8:28 and a truth I believe we MUST revisit and reiterate over and over again because this is where the enemy will hit us hardest and attempt to make us doubt God's goodness.
Let's look at the story of Jesus walking on water:
When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He *came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them. But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and *said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened. — Mark 6:45-52 (NASB)
First, I want to point out a telling word in the second line, verse 48. The word “straining” in Greek is basanizō, and means to torture, battered, felt...tormented, pain, straining, torment, tormented.
These men were beyond the point of being afraid. It was somewhere between three and six in the dark morning hours, they most likely couldn’t see a thing because the storm covered the moon, and they were terrified and saw no way out. I find the use of this word, basanizō, very interesting, because it’s not one I would have expected to find in this story. Perhaps God wanted us to understand that no matter how deep our fear and suffering run, He will prevail.
But that’s not the point I want to bring out today. (Hang with me just a little longer. I actually have three points to share with you.) Jesus revealed Himself in such a way as to surpass the the terror of the storm—they thought he was a ghost and were terrified. Right away, their perspectives shifted from the storm to His awe-inspiring and fear rendering presence.
Point #1: God will present Himself stronger, larger and more awe-inspiring than the trial, conflict, or enemy you face.
As Jesus approached the boat, He says to “take courage; It is I, do not be afraid.” He’s telling His disciples (His friends and His children) to put faith in WHO HE IS. Not in what He can do, but to trust Who Jesus is above the storm whirling around them. Otherwise, when the storm rages longer than our first cry for help, we will think that either God hasn’t heard us, that He’s tormenting us, or that He failed. The enemy will do whatever he can to make the waves of these lies fill your boat if you let him.
Point #2: God wants your faith and trust to rest in WHO He is and not in what He can or could do in your circumstances.
And this is the part I find the most interesting and telling, my dear friends. As Jesus approached, the first thing He did was present Himself, His awe-inspiring presence. Then He got into the boat with them. And if you’ll notice, Scripture doesn’t say that Jesus made the storm go away. Only that He made the winds stop.
Did the storm clouds still remain? My gut says at this point, it really didn’t matter. More importantly, Jesus gave the disciples the reassurance of His presence with them. And my friends, we ALWAYS have that reassurance in us in the presence of His Holy Spirit.
Point #3: God will give us His presence, comfort and reassurance first, then will quiet the storm around us so that we can follow His leading to calmer shores.
Just as Jesus came to the disciples to rescue them with His presence, He came for us all in our tormented and storm-ridden states to save and rescue us.
So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. — 1 Peter 5:6
In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation. — 1 Peter 5:10
I believe that in everything we walk, suffer, strive and struggle through, God has a plan and a purpose. And if you’ll notice in the Scriptures above, it’s in His timing. Wants to restore, support and strength us so that He can place us on that firm foundation—the foundation of Jesus, which is unshakable, isn’t threatened by storms and can walk on water.