We have traced grace all the way through the Old Testament and through the life of Jesus. This new movement of His followers has spread outside of Jerusalem and throughout many cities. The body of Christ is spreading, growing like wild-fire and planting new fellowships in many areas. They are being blessed in great ways but life is not without many trials also. Many people, both Jew and Gentile alike, are hearing the good news and are seeing the wonders and miracles. People are being healed, delivered and set free from the things that bind them; hold them back. Still there is division and strife from some of those who choose not to believe. Acts 14 tells us “After they had reached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, staying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. They passed through Pisidia and came into Pamphylia. When they had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, from which they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had accomplished. When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles. And they spent long time with the disciples.“ Acts 14:21-28
Sometimes when one comes to believe and follow Jesus, the impression is given, though it is not true, that it will make life smooth sailing and we will never have any major problems or struggles. Then when the trials of life do come along and buffet us on every side we get discouraged, desperate or worse. We wonder where God is or what we are doing wrong that these things have come upon us. Sometimes we blame God. As in the above passage, God tells us here and in other places in the Word, “Through many tribulations (troubles, trials) we must enter the kingdom of God”. He also proves it to be true by showing us in the lives of the people in history. Jesus never promised us an easy life but He did promise us a full or abundant life in John 10:10. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.“ (NET)
James tells us to consider it joy, all joy, or great joy when we face various trials… lets look. “My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything. But if anyone is deficient in wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him.” James 1:2-5 Why? was my first thought when I first saw this scripture many years ago. Am I supposed to be joyful, happy that something terrible happened? How can you be joyful when a loved one dies or tragedy happens? So I reread it many times and did as it said. I prayed for wisdom. I was finally able to understand the true meaning of the message. I believe what James is actually saying here is: in the midst of trials, He will see us through and in the process we will grow in faith, in endurance and in wisdom. When we don’t understand what we are going through we need to ask for wisdom, understanding and grace to move through the situation.
In my experience with walking with God, there have been many scary times, hard times, struggles and losses of very dear loved ones. One of the earliest and most frightening times I can remember was when I was about five years old. All I knew of God at the time was the normal children’s Bible stories parents read to their children. A situation arose and I was scared to death. I literally feared that might be my last night. I feared what the future would be if it wasn’t and this continued. In the back seat of a car in the dark, I cried out to God. I prayed hard! He answered that little girl’s prayer and the chaos began to subside. It was not completely resolved for several years but the circumstance was drastically changed within the next hour or two. That answered prayer was favor; it was grace. He met me where I was and granted me grace to hold on not just initially but time after time until the issue was completely resolved several years later. That was the night I gave my heart to Him. In every trial and trouble throughout my life, this has been the case. Did all of them turn out the way I like? Absolutely not. Did I always understand the whys? No. Did I feel at time He wasn’t there? Yes. Did He ever leave me or forsake me? NO! Today, I can say with boldness:
- God is good and has goodwill toward us.
- His thoughts and ways are higher than ours, He sees the big picture. Isaiah 55:8-10
- God knows what we are suffering is hard. Hebrews 4:14-16
He sees every last tear and He knows our pain. (NKJV) Psalm 56: 7-8
- God knows the outcome, even though we don’t. Psalm 139: 1-18
- He will provide for all our needs. Philippians 4:19
- God will see us through. 1 Peter 5:6-10
- He will redeem our troubles. Romans 8:28
- God likes to bring restoration, restoring what was lost.
Many would challenge my thoughts here. What if things would have turned out differently? There were times they did, times my prayers seemed unanswered or were answered very differently than I would have liked. God was always there even when it did not feel like it. God has proved Himself faithful to me and proved each of the above things in my life over and over again. His love, grace and mercy has been the sustaining force in my life and He can do the same in any life. Our job is to turn to Him rather that blame Him when the struggles, trials, and troubles come desiring to overtake us. It is to believe He is who He says. Hold on to the promises in His word. Trust in His grace to get us through both difficult days and good days. He is able!
“Now unto Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,Unto Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21