Purified by Troubles

It is hard to believe this is our last day of  vacation. The week has gone by quickly, but I’m glad we had more of a “laid back” experience. I don’t feel we need to come home and recover from our vacation. We have enjoyed being with Stephanie, Nathan, Mason, Carter and Mckenzie.

The time in the pool has been good therapy for me, so I felt like I was involved in ongoing work toward full recovery. I did get in a better workout in the resort fitness center today. With everything I was surprised how tired I was last night and how fatigued I felt mid afternoon today. Just part of the ebb and flow of energy that I seem to experience.

BIBLE VERSE FOR TODAY… “…for my own sake I will be patient. People will praise me for not becoming angry and destroying you. I have made you pure, but not by fire, as silver is made pure. I have purified you by giving you troubles. I do this for myself, for my own sake…”  Isaiah 48:9-11 NCV

The history of God’s people is one of God’s mercy in the face of rebellion and idolatry. If there was a commandment that was consistently broken it as the first, “you shall no no other god before me.” The Children of Israel had gods before the Lord God and in addition to the Lord and literally beside the Lord God. In the midst of it all, they became confused and conflicted about who had the real power and gave credit to false god for good and blamed the Lord God for bad.

From the time they entered the Promised Land the Lord said He would allow enemies to be driven out little by little so that what was in their heart would be revealed. The Lord spoke to King Asa of Judah’s and said, “For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9 NIV)  The Lord spoke through Jeremiah and said, I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind….” (Jeremiah 17:10 NKJV)

The Lord speaks through Isaiah the prophet and says, “…I have purified you by giving you troubles…” If there is one thing that reveals the heart it is trouble. Troubles will test us and we will either trust God or turn from God in the midst of the challenges and sufferings of life. That was certainly true for me in my time of a life-threatening illness and prolonged recovery. I’m glad that in my heart, I knew where my strength was and allowed that to be the anchor and plumb line to keep me steady and focused.

I once read an illustration about the response of carrots, an egg and coffee beans to hot water. The carrots become soft and mushy; the egg looks unchanged but is hard on the inside; the coffee beans change the color and flavor of the water. That is a good parallel to our lives. For some trouble causes people to “fold” under the circumstances. For others the experiences create a inner hardness that changes who they are. Finally, others are able to change their environment, more than their environment changes them.

During Jesus ministry He spoke to Peter and said, “…Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31,32 NIV) This was just before Jesus’ agony in the garden and eventual arrest and crucifixion. This would be a time of trouble and testing for Peter and the disciples. It would reveal their hearts. It would show their faith and loyalty or reveal them as casual followers and observers who would return to “life as normal” when Jesus was gone.

It is with personal experience in mind that Peter would write, “…you have been grieved by various trials,  so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:6,7 ESV)

Also James would write, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12 NIV) James also puts tests into perspective when he says, “…you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3,4 NIV)

Troubles and tests in life come from a variety of sources and for a variety of reasons. The issue is that they do reveal our hearts to ourselves. Not only that, we must believe that they are opportunities to grow in faith and trust and to become spiritually mature. When the dross of burned up, that which is pure, valuable and lasting remains.