Monday, June 20, 2011

I haven't been in a Christian Bookstore in years. It isn't that I don't like them or that I made a decision to avoid them. It's that I live in another country and there are few “Christian Bookstores” and those that exist can be hard to find. I can recall, however, when frequenting Christian Bookstore in America that there always seemed to me to be a ton of books devoted to “Victory,” “How to be Victorious in the Christian Life,” or “We are More than Conquerors.” These types of books lined the shelves.

I have to admit I never purchased any of these books but was always curious to note how many variations there were of the general theme of how to overcome the circumstances of life that seem to come in the form of trials and tribulations in the Christian's walk with God. Whether these books were correct in their doctrine and consequent advise I do not know, but I have been thinking lately of what the Bible teaches with regard to this issue. And, after all, it is the Bible we want to consult as the final authority for faith in practice.

First of all, the Bible does indeed say that in the midst of circumstances we are “more than conquerors through Christ.”

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? According as it is written, For thy sake we are put to death all the day long; we have been reckoned as sheep for slaughter. But in all these things we more than conquer through him that has loved us." (Romans 8:35-37; Darby)

The Apostle Paul, who penned these words, spoke under the most incredibly and dramatic circumstances in bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to his countrymen and Gentiles. And yet, he was, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, convinced to say that in the horror that he had to suffer for the cause of Christ, he “more than conquered through Christ who loved him.” Another version puts it like this: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37; NJKV)

Now, dear Reader, your circumstances in life may not even come close to rivaling those of the Apostle. You may be in the battle of trying to trust God in situations of your own making with the fault lying squarely on your shoulders for the mess you find yourself in. I cannot count the times where this has been true in my life. The trials and tribulations (or even temptations) were of my own doing and in what a mess I found myself involved. What is one to do?

No matter the circumstances, God's Word is true. We can be more than conquerors through Christ who loves us. No matter the degree of the severity of the trial, let me make some suggestions.

Number One: Examine yourself. Take whatever time you need to be alone and pray. Ask God to open your understanding to what actually is happening to you. Ask God to show you how, if at all, you have sinned in this trial and then confess your sin to God (1 John 1:9).

Number Two: Continue to read in 1 John, specifically 1 John chapters 2-3, paying close attention to 1 John 2: 3-11. Examine your part in your trials or tribulations to see, as says ch.2: 6, whether you have been abiding in Christ and walking as Christ walked when He was on this earth. Confess any sin after this self-examination.

Number Three: Give thanks for the situation in which you find yourself. Some who claim to be true believers will look at you like you have a hole in your head when you ask them if they have given thanks for the cancer diagnosis just given to them or to a family member. But, this is what God says to do in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

Number Four: Granted, there are trials and tribulations that God will in His Sovereign Grace allow or direct to happen in your life where it is absolutely due to no fault of your own. I know this from personal experience. I suffer from a syndrome that afflicts me with a number of maladies that pretty much torture me night and day. The medicines work, sometimes, to alleviate the pain but God has seen fit not to heal me from this incurable disease.

Then there are trials and tribulations that are indeed due to our own disobedience to the commands of God. A cheating spouse destroys not only his or her mate but also the children, relatives, friends, and the cheater; someone who is dishonest in filing tax returns does untold damage to conscience and reputation; someone who drives drunk and wipes out an entire family does seemingly irreparable harm to scores. Is a Christian to give thanks for these tribulations? Yes. In fact, glory in them.

"And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." (Romans 5:3-5; KJV)

Number Five: What about trials and tribulations that are the result of yielding to sin that we know is wrong? First of all, how do we as believers know the difference between right and wrong? Through His Word, God tells us and He does so plainly. What God says in His Word to seek, we seek. What God tells us to avoid, we avoid. Not to do so essentially demonstrates the truth I cited about in 1 John:

"But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (1 John 2:5-6; NKJV)

If you are not keeping His Word so that what can be said that characterizes you is that you are walking as Jesus Christ walked, then it is time for some deep soul searching questions: “Are you even truly saved, born again?”

If you find you are really in the faith, then how about beginning to do what is so obvious: AVOID THE TEMPTATION TO WHICH YOU HAVE BEEN YIELDING AND WHICH HAS CAUSED SORE TRIALS AND TEMPTATIONS?

How about walking in the way of obedience, rather than disobedience, to God's Word. This of course implies you having to get to know what that Bible that is sitting on your shelf collecting dust actually says. Do not give the Devil the chance or opportunity to tempt you. Are you praying to be spared the temptation? Are you asking God to “lead you not into temptation but to deliver you from the Evil One (Satan)? Did you know this exactly what the Lord Jesus told His disciples as the very thing to have victory over the temptations to which we so often yield causing so much heartache (those pesky trials and tribulations) in our lives?

"Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak." (Mark 14:38;)

Our Lord and Savior, Who by the way was tempted in all things as we yet without sin (see Hebrews 4:15), exhorted His disciples to do this very thing lest they fall into (yield) the temptations: “Watch and pray!” These were His very words to His disciples, Christ's doctrine, for avoiding and yielding to the temptations that, if yielded to, bring on all manner of trials and tribulations.

"For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted." (Hebrews 2:18)

Whether your trial and tribulation is the result of Providence or because you yielded to sin, we as Christians have got to be ready “in season or out” for the eventuality of temptations and trials. It is going to happen. And, Christ’s advice, His very words, is to “watch and pray, lest you fall into temptation.”

Always be on the watch because the Devil himself is for those from whom he can rob God of the glory He so richly and rightly deserves.