John answered, saying to all, "I indeed baptize you with water; but One mightier than I is coming, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Luke 3:16 NKJV
When Christ Jesus, who is the power of God, enters a person’s life He brings fire. He brings the fire of change, purity, and cleansing that leads to holiness as well as the consuming fire of a Father. The Prophet Malachi described Jesus as being “like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap.” Malachi went on to say that He would purify the sons of Levi which were the priest that were able to go into the Tabernacle and enter the “Holy of Holies.” Today, according to 1 Peter 2:9 we are the royal priesthood that we may proclaim the praises of God. This means that when Jesus enters our lives and we submit to Him we also submit to the fiery trials that lead to maturity.
Trials Produce Perfection
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2
To be patient means to be cheerful or hopeful in enduring through continuance waiting. Waiting is an action word, it is defined as “the action of staying where one is or delaying action until a particular time or until something else happens.” [Oxford Dictionaries] Waiting is also defined by Merriam-Webster as to look forward expectantly or to hold back expectantly.
The word waiting is not always a pleasant word because it is so often found in conjunction with putting off something or prolonging something and when we are impatient for that something waiting for it can be torture. We could be waiting for a breakthrough in an area such as, our health, finances, relationship, deliverance and any other number of things. While waiting we will either look forward expectantly and hold back our need to make the breakthrough happen or we will manipulate certain circumstances in order to push through on our own.
Perfect is defined as being complete in various ways such as growth, or mental and moral character. When we are “perfect” it simply means we have matured. A mature person will allow waiting to birth the breakthrough while an immature person will try to induce the breakthrough whereby possibly causing a miscarriage.
Valley of Death Leads to Life
Psalms 23 is a psalm that almost everyone has heard of but few really understand the meaning of. Let’s look at verse 4 first and then go back to 1.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You [are] with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. [Psa 23:4]
Though one will most definitely have trouble in the world, just as Jesus said, but we can grow in the knowledge of God in these times and mature through them. The rod of God is His correction and His staff represents His support, these two things will bring you to a place of repentance which will bring comfort. God will not allow a testing to take place whereby He has not given you provision to escape or see your way through it.
1 A Psalm of David. The LORD [is] my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.
David, who wrote this psalm, is expressing his confidence in God’s grace. He knows he can be facing death and God will restore his soul, provide him a home and cause all to come to a place of serenity. This is maturity, perfection. Not that David was perfect, on the contrary he had past sins of adultery and murder as well as many others I’m certain. However, David was said to be a man after God’s own heart. I believe that is because he allowed the Lords chastisement and never stopped following Him. He led a life of repentance as well as worship and this is what God asks of us.
Our trials can lead us into a backslidden state whereby we turn away from our King or it can lead us to the altar whereby we lean on our King. It is always a choice and God will not make it for us. Anything we need to get through the assaults of the world have been provided for us, it is in our perspective. Will we see our cup as half empty or half full? Will we take time to reflect on the journeys of prior years and see where God brought us out of multiple Egypt’s or will we falter when the stormy seas appear to be capsizing the ship?
Potential for Stronger Faith
Every circumstance in our life has the ability to take us to a whole new level of faith in Christ Jesus but they also offer an opportunity to give up, especially when people start saying, “Why don’t you just curse God and die?” That’s what Jobs wife said to him when he was plagued with sickness, poverty and death! But Job didn’t curse God and eventually, when Job awakened to the state of his heart which was fear and pride, God restored everything to him. Yes, it is true that Job was a righteous man who prayed daily but if you look closely you will see some of his prayers were because of fear and fear is unbelief and God tells us that without faith it is impossible to please Him.
Job had an opening in his life to allow the things to come upon him, it wasn’t that he was a horrible man or that he was even walking in blatant sin but he needed some deliverance and God allowed it to come through the various trials. This might sound like God is mean but sometimes we have to have dramatic experiences in our lives in order for God to get our attention.
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. Job 1:1 KJV
Job was perfect and upright, that means he was morally right and mature with moral reverence toward the Lord, however, this doesn’t mean he could not have had a tender spot where fear entered in and he was extremely wealthy and that can always lead to pride.
In verses 13-20 we read of the account of Jobs losses, which included his children. He had four messengers come to him, one after another, and tell him of the horrible news of the loss of his livestock, servants and children. Yet look how Job responds, 20 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD." 22 In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong. [Job 1:20-22]
Hallelujah! Can you imagine falling on the ground in worship during such devastation? Job humbled himself and fell prostrate to show reverence to the Lord, his God. This is maturity at its highest.
The Scriptures give us hope by providing us testimonies of lives gone by that suffered tremendously yet never turned their backs on God. When we first give our lives back to God, (for they were His before they were ours), we often have many trials come our way as the enemy of our soul tries to kill, steal, and destroy us before we even get started. Our response should be worship.
Jesus said, "Abba, Father, all things [are] possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You [will]." [Mar 14:36]. Even though His soul was exceedingly sorrowful, even to death, Jesus prayerfully went to the Father. The kind of prayer Jesus offered was an obedient supplication kind of prayer. If I may paraphrase how the conversation may have went. Perhaps Jesus said something like, Papa is there anything else we can do to save these people? This is a lot harder than I had thought and all my friends are going to bail on me and they won’t even stay awake to pray! Never mind Dad, it is Your plan and You know what You are doing and since we already agreed on this before I came let Your will be done. Verse 39 tells us that Jesus prayed these same words a second time. That means He had submitted to the plan of the Father but still asked if there was another way, He asked twice.
Being submitted to the plans and purposes of God doesn’t mean we don’t get fearful of how it is all going to work out. It also doesn’t mean that it will go according to our plans, it most likely will not. The thing to remember about Jesus was that He was with the Father before He came to earth and we see in Genesis that the word says “Let us.” There was and is agreements made in Heaven where two or more agree it shall be done. Jesus already agreed to this, He gave Himself up willfully but He also taught us how to seek the Fathers grace when we go through various trials.
It is grace that saves and it was grace that supplied Jesus the strength and courage to take the cross. If Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world needed to make obedient supplication in order to see His mission through then how much more shall we?