In the early weeks that I experienced God’s outpouring in 2006, I was on an emotional high. What was happening around me and in me was so thrilling that I was in a near-constant state of excitement. This was not permanent, of course. Especially in America, where we tend to be spoiled, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that our relationship with Christ will put us on a never-ending high and keep us from trouble.
Some who had been deeply touched by the Lord during this time, were caught off guard and disheartened when they discovered firsthand that serving the Lord not only involves exhilaration but also severe trials.
During this season my wife Char told me that she heard the Holy Spirit whisper to her, “Did you think this would be easy?”- dispelling any notion that it should be. Christians who don’t expect their spiritual lives to be a battle set themselves up for disillusionment.
Jesus promised that in this world you will have trouble (John 16:33). Like most people I don’t like trouble, but we should come to expect it as normative as long as we live in this world.
In the ninth grade, when the fall sports season came around, I decided to join the cross country team. My real motivation was to get in shape for basketball season and I feared I’d get hurt if I played football. As it turned out, I hated cross country. Running ten miles of steep hills in The Dalles was not my idea of fun. But I had no one but myself to blame-
the one who signed up for cross country!
When we choose to follow Christ we sign up for a battle. As Peter puts it:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening
(1 Pt. 4:12). Personal revival is not sustainable for those who don’t realize this.
Charles Spurgeon had a clear understanding that trials are part of the Christian life: “Soldier of Christ, if thou enlisteth, thou wilt have to do hard battle. There is no bed of down for thee; there is no riding to heaven in a chariot; the rough way must be trodden; mountains must be climbed, rivers must be forded, dragons must be fought, giants must be slain, difficulties must be overcome, and great trials must be borne. It is not a smooth road to heaven, believe me; for those who have gone but a very few steps therein have found it to be a rough one. It is a pleasant one; it is the most delightful in all the world, but it is not easy in itself; it is only pleasant because of the company, because of the sweet promises on which we lean, because of our Beloved who walks with us through all the rough and thorny brakes of this vast wilderness.”
He went on to give some excellent advice: “If I had no trouble I would not believe myself one of the family. If I never had a trial I would not think myself [an] heir of heaven. Children of God must not, shall not, escape the rod. Earthly parents may spoil their children but the heavenly Father never shall his. ‘Whom he loveth he chasteneth,’ and scourgeth every son whom he hath chosen. His people must suffer; therefore, expect it Christian; if thou art a child of God believe it, look for it, and when it comes, say, ‘Well suffering, I foresaw thee; thou art no stranger; I have looked for thee continually.’ You cannot tell how much it will lighten your trials, if you await them with resignation. In fact, make it a wonder if you get through a day easily. If you remain a week without persecution, think it a remarkable thing; and if you should, perchance, live a month without heaving a sigh from your inmost heart, think it a miracle of miracles. But when the trouble comes, say, “’Ah! this is what I looked for; it is marked in the chart to heaven; the rock is put down; I will sail confidently by it; my Master has not deceived me.’”
One scripture verse that has helped me time and again in times of trial is Hebrews 12:7:
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?”
I can look at troubles as part of my training. I can view any given hardship as tailor-made for the development of my character. He is maturing me and teaching me perseverance.
If my goal in life is ease, comfort and favorable circumstances, then God and I will not get along very well. His objective is to form Christ-likeness in me. In God’s school of training hardship is considerably more effective than ease so He uses it liberally.
In the midst of the training that He brings through hardship, we can set our hearts and minds on eternal things, longing for the day when
“there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away”
Friend, as you experience disappointment and trials of various kinds, when hardships threaten to shake your faith, don’t do what I observed some doing during our mini-revival. Don’t back down in any way on your commitment to follow Jesus Christ. Instead, rethink your attitude toward trials. Expect them and embrace them knowing that God is using them to transform you.
Copyright Ed Skipper 2013
For more information about Ed’s ministry, to listen to him speak or to contact him about speaking to your group, visit heartofrevival.net.