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Health in the fire

People wish for a life of peace and quiet, which is only human. Christians live a life of peace and turmoil, which is the divine plan. When Christians grasp this paradox, it creates a vibrant new beginning to their life of faith. The whole world looks differently to them. They begin to know the feelings of victory and conquest found in higher levels of faith. It is a paradox because the more we wish for calm and quiet the more anxious and worried we become.
Christ taught about the folly of building up our own sense of security and trusting in God's Fatherly care in His sermon about the rich man and the barns (Luke 12:15-34). Just as the religious people of Christ's time mistakenly thought He would bring an earthly kingdom, Christians mistakenly think His peace is the earthly view of peace: prosperity, tranquility, ease, and comfort. This is almost never seen in the New Testament Church. Yet, who can doubt the all-consuming sense of peace found in Peter as he was sleeping soundly in jail as Herod was killing Christians (Acts 12:6). Or, what a testimony of peace and inner security can be seen in Paul and Silas as they prayed and sang praises while in prison (Acts 16.25). This is not limited to the New Testament. God said, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched; nor will the flame burn you"(Isaiah 43:2). Notice that He said "when" not "if." It is to be expected. Now, look at Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They were minding their own business and were thrown into the fiery furnace. They experienced this promise of God found in Isaiah. Not only were they not burned, but by Nebuchadnezzar's own mouth, the Son of God was in the fiery furnace right along with them (Daniel 3). In extreme cases, we see where people very desperately search for an absence of conflict. They live in terror of conflict, and are therefore victimized by their own fears and imaginations. For these people the sky is always falling. The next crash is just around the corner. This is not the spirit of Jesus Christ. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God” (II Timothy 1:7-8).
What is the spirit of Jesus Christ? An attitude where we are more than conquerors. (Romans 8:37). How do we become conquerors? II Corinthians 10:3-5 says that we ignore our earthly perception of things and place ourselves in His hands. Some have said, “Let go and let God”. To the worriers described above, this is foolishness. To the faithful, it is victory. This is a preference of God's. He has always wanted His people to be in a state of faith and trust in Him in spite of precarious circumstances all around them. Therefore, to be wishing for material security, ease, and comfort is likely to be working against God's will. What is so secure about the location of the promised land of Israel? Located on an elbow at the Mediterranean Sea, it was the crossroads for every conquering force down through history. The first night out of Egypt, Moses and his brethren were backed up against the Red Sea, with Pharaoh's forces on the other three sides. When no human reasoning could see security, God provided His own solution. It is a human tendency not to see peace or victory until after the conflict is over. If this one human failing could be overcome by the grace of God, we would know the joy of victory “in” the conflict. All of human life is conflict. It is the nature of our existence on this fallen earth. To wish for calm and comfort and not be at peace until that state exists is to condemn ourselves to a majority of our lives without peace. The goal is to sing praises while in prison. To keep one's faith during the storm. How do you think Paul earned the respect to have his captors listen to him on board that ship, and not leave the ship, or kill the slaves? On his word, they actually cut off the lifeboats and let them fall into the sea (Acts 27). He earned that respect by being in a spiritual state of mind, mature, and calm in the face of the storm, and his testimony was consistent. Everything he said was attributed to God, and he made no claims of his own wisdom.
When we are in the midst of the battle, do we try to calm people around us? Do we explain and rationalize with our own reasoning, or do we confidently assert that the Lord is in charge. Do those confident words match our observable behaviors? Jesus Christ sent His disciples ahead in a boat. They obediently got in the boat and launched out across the sea only to find themselves in the midst of a severe storm. What had they done wrong? They obeyed the Master. Yet they were in the midst of a storm. This set the stage for them to make a miraculous experience (Matthew 14:22-34). This is the model for all Christian life. We go from miracle to miracle in the midst of storms. To wish the storms away is perfectly natural, but it violates the Master's purpose. There is greater joy in walking on the water at Christ's command even though while on that water there is no visible support for our feet.
There is greater joy in launching out in faith, championing Christ's teachings and His commandments, even when there is no assurance that those around us will accept them, even when learned men may be able to make us look foolish and revile us. This is a life of faith. This is a life.

 

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