I was reading the word this morning and given the current environment the words of Peter kind of leaped off the page. There are times I feel like I suffer trials and tribulations. There are also times when I feel like I love the Lord. But typically I blow the trials out of proportion and my love of the Lord is a tepid thing with little of the fervor that I desire.
We, meaning privileged Americans, have little knowledge of true suffering. We can talk about it. We can write about it. A few of us have lived it , typically overseas. But we do not know the true meaning of suffering. Suffering is not having to give up a 5 dollar latte because things are a little tight at the office. Suffering is not being unable to replace or fix appliance when they get old and break. Suffering is not even being unemployed or losing our homes to an overweening banking industry. Suffering is being put on the point of emotional distress, torture or even death for the things we believe in.
The early church had a faith that blazed across the Roman empire. They were 100% committed, because being committed to Christ was a potential death sentence. Where is the church thriving today? In countries where it is outlawed, pushed underground, tortured.
What is true love? John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. One person laid down his life for all of mankind. The early church was aware of that. In the post Christian era in the US we seem to have forgotten that. They remember that in countries like North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia and many others.
We are called to be a witness. The root word for witness is μάρτυς martys from the Greek and from which we get our word martyr. In reference to this discussion I think the first and second definitions are most apropos.
“1: a person who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty of witnessing to and refusing to renounce a religion”
“2:a person who sacrifices something of great value and especially life itself for the sake of principle”
What should I be sacrificing? What is my “sacrifice of love” going to be today? If I truly love the Lord, if I am truly sold out for God, what am I willing to give up for him. The true answer should be everything. Even my life. I don’t know that I have that level of commitment. Nor do I think that I want to find out. But I can take heart in this:
2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.
12Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
A final note. Trials versus temptation was the study that prompted this digression. It can be found on Love Worth Finding at www.lwf.org.