When I think of the saints of old I see great faith that led them to accomplish incredible things through the power and touch of God. What if we were given the opportunity to walk the same path as them? How would we respond in the midst of the battle? Would we rise to the occasion?If we are like many modern day believers, we want to know God. We desire to sense His presence, experience his power and blessings -but without cost, effort or suffering.
One of the constants that I have observed in the lives of many of the church planters in Third World countries is suffering and a lifestyle of continual difficulty. Could it be that our “smooth sailing” mentality keeps us from experiencing the depths of Jesus Christ? Have we forgotten the principal of growth – suffering, trouble and being out of control? I think there is a direct correlation of healthy church growth with suffering.
I am not promoting the false belief that “you have to be suffering or you can’t be happy”. No one in his right mind would pray for suffering. But I have often wondered why God doesn’t allow us to stay comfortable and content. Should the normal Christian life be easy?
The Scriptures were given to us not only for instruction in righteousness but also for examples of how God deals with his servants. Abraham was asked to give up his only son, and he was willing to do it. Moses could have stayed in Egypt and enjoyed living as a royal, but he willingly chose to be a sheep herder and then come face to face with Pharaoh. Daniel put his neck on the line by defying a king, and then risking his life in the lion’s den. Three of Daniel’s friends were willing to go into the fiery furnace because of their faith, not knowing if God was going rescue them. David, after being declared the future king by the prophet Samuel, was continually pursued by Saul. Esther risked her future and even her life by going to the King in behalf of her Jewish brethren. Her abandonment was obvious by her statement, “If I perish, I perish”.
It was during the toughest of times that these men and women experienced the depths of fellowship and maturity. It was not during times of comfort or happiness that they experienced a deeper knowledge of God – it was often the lack of it. Does inner peace mean as much if we never experience being out of control? Can we have genuine gratefulness if we never have a need? Can we ever feel a sense of awe that God would use us unless we experience a time of wilderness? A life where everything is calm and unchallenged is not the best atmosphere for maximum growth.
The writer of Hebrews challenges us to follow “the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross.” Philippians 2 admonishes us to consider Jesus who set aside his rights and expectations and took on the status of a slave. He lived a selfless, obedient life complete with periods of unfair circumstances. May we learn that God’s apparent silence or lack of intervention is not necessarily His chastening, but is more likely his hand of blessing that leads to a deeper and more abundant walk with the King!