Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Surviving the Fire (1 Peter 4:12-13)

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.” (1 Peter 4:12–13, NASB95)

I have commented recently that I am walking through a James 1:2 period. For some who have known me for a long time or who may be familiar with the verse, this comment makes immediate sense. James wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,” (James 1:2, NASB95) Considering IT all joy speaks to the battle to take the trials that are present and submitting the attitudes concerning them to the truth of what God has declared and trusting Him to work in and through them for good. The next couple of verses help to clarify this, where we continue to read, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:3–4, NASB95)

The word “trials” used by James is the same Greek word translated “testing” used by Peter in this passage today. It is the word “peirasmos,” and it has been used variously to speak of both testing and trials as something that God works in and through for our growth and His glory. It is in these tests and trials that God proves Himself to us in so many different ways, and it is also in them that we grow in faith as we see Him bring us through to the other side. But there is also a third form of this word that we see translated in our Bibles. It is seen in verses like 1 Corinthians 10:13 where we read, “No temptation [peirasmos] has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NASB95)

Jesus even uses a form of this word in His response to Satan in the desert when Satan tried to get Him to respond contrary to the will of the Father, and even take things into His own hands. It was in the face of this temptation, after not having eaten for forty days, that Jesus responded, “Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test [ekpeirazo].’ ”” (Matthew 4:7, NASB95) And it is pointing to what Jesus endured that that the writer of Hebrews added, “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18, NASB95)

Clearly Satan is about seeking and destroying all that is good and God-centered. He is about bringing us down and disabling us from effective service. He is about discouragement and doubt. He is about tempting us to take our eyes off of God and looking to the size of our situations and not God’s faithfulness and power. And He will not stop at anything left within his grasp by the sovereign hand of God. There is a spiritual battle going on that is beyond our ability to see, but not beyond our ability to sense or to feel its tentacles. It is in the midst of this battle that passages such as Ephesians 6:10-18 prove so vital as we are spiritually prepared for this very real spiritual warfare, where we read of one of the pieces that we are to “tak[e] up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:16, NASB95)

Satan would like to burn us alive, but God uses these things to purify us for His glory and to demonstrate His power. Knowing this reality, we read in today’s passage that we are not to be surprised at the fiery ordeal among us. We are not to be shocked with trials happen. The reality is that they will. There is no way around them, and this is exactly how God intends it. Sure, it would have been great if man never sinned and if evil never entered the world. But this is not the case. We live in a world where Satan is given a level of freedom for a season and where people live according to their own desires. This even includes the battles that we have in our own minds knowing otherwise. Jesus put it plainly when He said in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NASB95)

Yep, this ugly and unwanted stuff happens. But unlike the world’s view where we are just supposed to make the best of it because we can’t do anything else, God has promised to keep us and accomplish something great in the process. Jesus came and suffered greatly for us, and now we are called to walk through various forms of trials and testing without succumbing to the temptation to turn, knowing that as we endure that God will bring us safely to the other side, whether that be here or in His presence where we can fully rejoice forever.

Several years ago, after seeing the link in this one word translated these three words, I prepared a paraphrase and response to 1 Corinthians 10:13.

There is no test, no trial, no temptation to sin, no pushing, pulling, prodding, or anything else that comes my way that makes me any different than anyone else. We all experience these things, maybe in different ways and at times to different degrees, but I am no different than anyone else.

BUT GOD…. He is always faithful in all things. With every trial, test, or temptation—no matter how big or how small; with all of these things He has set a limit to them. He will not allow anything into my life beyond which He also has not given the ability to victoriously endure. With every single test, trial, and temptation He has provided a way of escape, and He will keep me from being crushed, and He will bring me out standing on the other side. This is true whether that other side is realized in this life or ultimately in His presence. This is a certain fact.

Therefore, I will place my trust in Him and look not to the size of the situation, BUT to the size and faithfulness of my GOD.

“For You have tried us, O God; You have refined us as silver is refined.” (Psalm 66:10, NASB95)

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