Thursday, August 30, 2007

Journey to Contentment (Part IV)

"By Him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name."
-Hebrews 13:15 (emphasis mine)

Let's face it. Sometimes (and some-days) we simply do not FEEL like giving God praise. There are even entire seasons in our lives in which we struggle giving God praise. We consciously know that "... God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose." (Rm. 8:28) but our feelings are screaming otherwise. How can I praise God when I am experiencing financial strains, a health problem, a move, or a teething/screaming infant? Take it a step further into the extreme... what about a job loss, an insurmountable medical bill, cancer, haunting memories of past abuse, death of a family member or friend, house fire, etc.? During these life-rattling situations, this Hebrews passages comes alive with reality: "... let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually...". Sometimes, finding a way to praise God is going to be a sacrifice. It's going to be hard, maybe seemingly impossibly hard, to come up with a way to praise God and give Him thanks. Also notice that this passage doesn't say "give praise to God when you feel like it". It says "praise God continually"... whether you feel like it or not. Whether things are going swell or falling apart at the seams. We must give God praise continually regardless of our circumstances... regardless of our feelings.

Let's look at another passage:

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you are mature and complete, not lacking in anything."
-James 1:2-4

As a Christian, isn't it one of our main goals to become mature in Christ, complete, lacking in nothing? Our only other purposes in life are to know God more fully and glorify Him with our lives. Listen to Scripture: "consider it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds...". Pure joy? Is THAT how you perceive difficulties that arise in your life? I don't know about you but rarely, if at all, do I just leap for joy when another new difficult, painful, tiring, and/or potentially anxiety-causing situation crops up in my life. More times than I'd like to admit, a very more real thought is along the lines of "not again... not more...". But as a follower of Christ, according to Scripture, we are to be overjoyed when another trial comes our way because it's another step closer to God both in faith/trust and in sanctification. We should be working to the point where we willingly and openly embrace trials because we know we're going to grow up and mature in our walk with Christ. It won't be fun to endure the trial, but the end result is priceless. The majority of our spiritual growth will only come through adversity.

Trials will either make you bitter or better.

More to come...

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