“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation works patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope makes not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given unto us.”(Romans 5:3-5 KJ2000).
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But if any one has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18 RSVA)
What an interesting sequence of happenings that Paul names off here that builds up to Jesus’ love being shed abroad in our hearts! Then John goes on to describe how we may know that His love is abiding in us — lives laid down in service of others, walking on this earth as Jesus walked.
Paul starts off in his description of growth in Christ with tribulations! Not a very seeker friendly of a gospel, there Paul! What could you have been thinking of? Paul was not thinking of building lots of big church buildings and filling them with happy tithe paying people. His vision of the kingdom of God was made up of mature saints of God who were filled with His love for this world an would be demonstrating it in very practical ways. It went way beyond the temporal self-seeking desires of men to become rich, famous and powerful. Paul knew that all these things which can be seen would soon be done away with, but those things like the lives of the saints who live in His love would go on into eternity in a kingdom that can not be shaken.
I know that the love of God which surpasses all understanding did not just drop into your hearts, nor did it mine. We who have been called and chosen by God have gone through many trials and abuses in our lives before God’s love became fully functional in us according to HIS will. Many of us started out with a wonderful honeymoon period with Jesus as our Lover and Friend. We were also surprised when it came to an end. Being a “Christian” was the most wonderful experience we could have ever imagined! But then the trials started and I know that I wondered what I had done to deserve them. I discovered that God was trying to change me. I complained, “What ever happened to ‘Just As I Am’?” I thought He loved me the way I was, then I read where God uses trials and testings in our lives to bring us into a fuller walk with His Son. Like the saying goes, “God loves us the way we are, but too much to let us stay that way!” Many churches today never get beyond the “just as I am” stage of Christian growth. They perpetuate the babyhood of believers with easy believisms, fearing that they might offending anyone and have them leave with all “their money, marbles and chalk” as the saying goes. They want to make “doing church” a happy weekly event. These false church leaders have built a non-scriptural Baby Doc Benjamin Spock system of belief that is not the gospel of the Kingdom of God.
Looking back now I can see that all those trials and sufferings I have gone through were from the hand of God and that they worked patience and endurance in me, two traits that God esteem highly in His saints. Jesus put it this way,
But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; And you shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what you shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what you shall speak. For it is not you that speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks through you. And the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child: and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death. And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endures to the end shall be saved.” (Matthew 10:17-22 KJ2000 – emphasis added)
Sound familiar? I know that many of you have already suffered many of these things. In all these experiences that we have endured God had given us great hope — the hope of Christ shining forth from our lives. God, somehow came through when all men failed us. We started being changed by experiencing His love for us as we came out the other side of these dark tunnels of pain and rejection. Jesus was there loving us and healing us the whole time. Though we often felt sorrow for the things we went through and shame for our own failings, He took away our sorrow and shame with His love for us. We love HIM because He first loved us and brought us through it all and wiped away all our tears. For “He has given us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for morning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. That we might be HIS Trees of Righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that HE might be glorified!”
God wants us to live lives that glorify HIM and not just ourselves. He wants sons and daughters He can be proud of who gladly do HIS will, just like Jesus and be a fountain of His love for this dying and sin-sick world.
Marantha! Come Lord Jesus IN US!