Your Trial, Your Trophy
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV)
Today, I glance at a trophy on my bookshelf given to me in jest. The trophy emblem reads, “Largest Ulcer of 2017.” I had undergone major surgery for a bleeding ulcer the doctor reported was, “the largest I’ve seen all year.” While recovering at the hospital, a friend presented me with the tongue-in-cheek trophy. And though an ulcer is generally not something to boast about, I look at that trophy today with a grin of contentment. Through faith, our pain and trials become our trophies.
God allowed the apostle Paul to undergo a very trying affliction. He repeatedly implored the Lord to take away the tormenting “thorn” in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7). Yet the Lord had a greater purpose in store. He would discover that his weakness was, in fact, an occasion to “boast in the Lord.” There is comfort in knowing the Almighty is in control and on our side. God often uses hardship to mold us into the person He wants us to be in Christ. Was the apostle Paul better off on account of his distress? Indeed, that the power of God might be made manifest in the midst of his weakness. God is glorified as we are transformed through suffering.
Believers are compared to jars of clay. Though inexpensive and easily broken, God has deemed fit to display His glorious light in our midst, in spite of our weakness:
For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (NRSV)
Our frailty and brokenness encase the very glory of the living God. Though we fragment, God’s light emanates through the cracks in our lives. Our imperfections emit the radiance, splendor, and intensity of Almighty God.
God is at work in the midst of weakness in ways that may escape our immediate purview. Indeed, God’s light shines through the crevices of our weakness for those around us to see. When we endure pain and trials in the strength Christ provides, others gain a fuller picture of the reason for our hope.
When He showcases His power in our weakness; our trials, sickness, and pain, become our trophies. Hold the trophy of your suffering up high today, knowing that through your difficulties, God is winning victory on your behalf and unveiling His glory for all those around to see.
When Sin Bubbles Up
By: Kelly Givens, crosswalk.org
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of Life has set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2
A few weeks ago, after realizing I had somehow missed reading this children’s classic as a child, I found myself speeding through the entire Anne of Green Gables series. The books captivated me, and for good reason. Written in the early twentieth century by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery, the series chronicles the life of red-headed Anne Shirley, an orphan adopted by a brother and sister pair who really wanted a little boy to help on their farm. Eventually, they learn to love the little girl brought to them, as do all readers of Montgomery’s classic. Anne is a true literary heroine. We identify with her weaknesses: her spiritedness, quick-temper and vanity, and we strive for her strengths: bravery, generosity, and a heart overflowing with love for life and people.
As I read through the books, I was struck with the number of times Montgomery used Anne’s character to illustrate deep truths about the human condition. There were many examples, but one stood out in particular to me. After being picked up from the train station by Matthew, Anne begins describing her life in the orphanage. Realizing she was exaggerating just how bad things were, Anne apologizes, saying, “It’s so easy to be wicked without knowing it, isn’t it?”
Indeed, it is. Throughout the Green Gables series, Anne repeatedly found herself unexpected moments of “wickedness,” forced to repent to neighbors, family and friends for some fiery retort, vain action or other impulsive sin. We can all relate to Anne- I know there are days I have to apologize over and over for the same sin- it just somehow keeps “bubbling up” in me.
The Apostle Paul dealt with this too. In his letter to the church in Rome, he wrote “For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19). What causes us to do the very things we don’t want to do? Why does our sin seem to bubble up in us—overflowing like a pot of boiling water? Paul understood: it is our indwelling, sinful nature fighting against our desire to do what is good. He goes on to say:
“For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?”
Thankfully, Paul’s question is rhetorical; he knows the answer. “Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!” After acknowledging God to be our ultimate rescuer from sin, he writes some of the most encouraging verses of scripture found in the Bible, reminding us that through Christ’s death on the cross we have all we need to fight the wickedness that bubbles up in us.
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Praise God! Our sinful nature is no match for the redemptive power of the cross. Yes, as Anne said, it is easy to be wicked- in fact, it’s unavoidable. Thankfully, Christ has already taken the punishment for our wickedness, and even more- he has credited his righteousness to us, giving us all the means we need to conqueror the sin in our lives.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! … Those who fear him will have all they need … those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.” – Psalm 34:8-10 NLT
The Bible makes this amazing promise: If we trust God, we “will lack no good thing.” The message is clear: God does not want us to suffer or be in want. He wants us to prosper in all things (3 John 1:2). Think about it: God wants you to prosper! In all things!
If we want this prosperity, we need to realize that everything we have comes from God in the first place. We prepare our hearts for blessings by focusing on Him in every situation. We look to Him as our Provider. We should not hope in our jobs, money, other people, or anything else.
Our task is to be good stewards of these resources. We are not to hide or bury them or hoard the things He provides but to invest them. But rather, we are to sow seeds with the time, talents, and treasures we have been given. We need to realize that we have been blessed so that we might bless others.
Today, don’t doubt but believe God’s promise that He desires to bless you spiritually, physically, financially, and healthfully. Start down the path to greater blessings by declaring your faith in Him. Seek God about your needs and problems. And sow seeds with the resources you have been given. As you trust Him, be confident that you will never lack any good thing.
“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” Isaiah 40:1
Suggested Further Reading: Acts 12:6-11
To angels, first of all, I believe this command is addressed: “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.” You often talk about the insinuations of the devil; I frequently hear you bemoaning yourselves because you have been attacked by Apollyon, and have had a hard struggle with Beelzebub; you have found it hard to resist his desperate thrusts which he made against you; and you are always talking about him. Allow me to remind you that there is another side of that question, for if evil spirits assault us, doubtless good spirits guard us; and if Satan can cast us down, doubtless it is true God gives his angels charge over us, to keep us in all our ways, and they shall bear us up in their hands lest at any time we dash our feet against a stone. It is my firm belief that angels are often employed by God to throw into the hearts of his people comforting thoughts. There are many sweet thoughts which we have by the way, when we sit down, and when we rise up, which we scarcely dare attribute immediately to the Holy Spirit, but which are still beautiful and calm, lovely, and fair, and consoling; and we attribute them to the ministry of angels. Angels came and ministered unto Jesus, and I doubt not that they minister unto us. Few of us have enough belief in the existence of spirits. I like that saying of Milton’s, “Millions of spiritual creatures walk this earth, both when we sleep and when we wake.” And if our minds were opened, if our ears were attentive, we might hold fellowship with spirits that flit through the air every moment. Around the death-bed of saints, angels hover; by the side of every struggling warrior for Christ the angels stand.