Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. (1 Peter 4:12)
Yesterday I began a new Adult Sunday School class entitled “Growing in the Spirit: Nurturing Christian Character.” For the next few weeks we’ll be exploring the fruit of the Spirit as found in Galatians 5:22-23, and discussing ways we can help to nurture the growth of these characteristics in our lives. I reminded the class that any growth that we experience comes from God, but that such growth can be aided by our vigorous and relentless pursuit of the holiness of God.
I also read the above passage from I Peter, warning them that when they place themselves in the hands of God, seeking His blessing and the work of the Spirit in their lives, they should expect to face trials. As long as are comfortable with our convenient Christianity, watching what we want to watch, thinking what we want to think, playing like we want to play, without any thought or concern to the how the Word of God should shape and influence our lives – why should Satan bother us? But when we lift up our heads, when we cry out to the Lord, when we take a step toward growing in the likeness of Christ – that’s when our great adversary starts to take notice of us. That’s when the slings and arrows start to fly, that’s when the flaming darts of the evil one hit us right between the eyes.
Sometimes I wish that God didn’t keep using my own life as object lessons for everyone else to learn from. Stepping into the pulpit with a renewed sense of purpose in ministry, with a renewed committment to prayer and dependence on God, with an earnest desire to see and show the glory of God in Christ Jesus my Lord – the arrows have really started to fly. Either through well-intentioned praise that has inflated my ego, or by my mis-spoken words crashing down around me, the fiery trials started as soon as I opened my heart to God.
There have been moments when it seems it would be better to say to God, “Oh nevermind – I’ll just settle for mediocrity – you really don’t need to keep working in my life.” Looking at the cross I wonder, “Couldn’t there have been an easier way for God to bring about my transformation?”
But I press on. The glimpse of glory compels me. I know that the arrows will continue to fly, the flames will burn around me, and more trials will come my way as God refines my faith and character, transforming me, ultimately, to the image of His Son. I may be singed, but I will revel in the glory of God!