Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hope, Faith, Thankfulness, and Trials...

"Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." (Hebrews 11:1, NLT).

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.(1 Thes 5:16-18).

I was talking yesterday with a member of our congregation who's going through a tough time.  He had just read about the idea that Christians are supposed to go through this life happy, and  full of joy.  He wasn't buying that.  To be honest, I think many well-meaning believers don't quite have a handle on this concept.  Quite often, we mistake the emotion of happiness with the joy that is to be the rudder of our lives.  Allow me to try and explain how I understand it;

To be sure, Christians should generally be optimists.  We should face each day - be it good or bad - with the knowledge of our salvation which should be a constant source of joy...the substitutionary death on the cross by Jesus Christ, who took our place and saved us from eternal death.  Think about that - eternity separated from God and all things good and right and just...this was our destiny until Jesus erased that and replaced it with a new, eternal, and everlasting life.  That truth should be the motivator for a life of joy.  That doesn't mean we turn a blind eye to the facts...and sometimes those facts are cold, hard, and miserable.  However, the optimist says, "even though I hurt so much today, and the tears are flowing, I cling to the hope I have in Christ for a better day."  It's an iron-clad faith that in the end, Christ will do what He promised.

Now look at those verses above.  In Hebrews we see that faith, the backbone of Christianity, is the confidence that what God says will happen will actually happen.  This faith should give us assurance for this hope, even though we can't quite see it all yet.  In Thessalonians we see that God calls us to be joyful and to give thanks in all circumstances.  Notice it doesn't say to be thankful for all circumstances, for not all circumstances are good...but we can remain thank in all circumstances, because of the joy that comes from knowing Him.

This is so important as we go through life and experience seasons of pain, of loss, of doubt, uncertainty, sadness.  These seasons and emotions are all part of living in a fallen world.  We are not supposed to somehow be "happy" when we've lost a loved one, a job, been pronounced with cancer, or any other trial that should come our way.  However, we should hold to our faith and the joy that comes with that faith.

There is so much more to be said, but if I write too much, you may not read it.  :-)  So I leave you with this;

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:12-13)

Key to this verse - context.  Paul is talking about contentment, and the point of verse is this; no matter the situation we find ourselves in, whether rich or poor, healthy or sick, free or in prison, employed or jobless, life of blessing or feeling cursed, no matter what we face, we can do anything through Christ who will strengthen us to face each day.

No comments: