Monday, October 9, 2017

Hope When You Are Tested

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sister, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
James 1:2-4

Sunday I preached about hope and its dependency upon the sovereignty of God. I believe it was a sovereign plan of God that the devotional book my wife and I read each day, New Morning Mercies, by Paul David Tripp, was, on that same day, about hope. The author pointed out that we find ourselves hopeless when we trust in horizontal relationships, the things of this earth, rather than our vertical relationship with God.

Any preacher knows that sometimes he preaches "to" the congregation, and sometimes he "is" the congregation. The latter should always be the preacher's goal. Yesterday I was the congregation. He spoke to me as I shared Samuel's struggles after Saul failed. For Samuel to get past the grief and fear that paralyzed him, he had to trust that God was sovereign. It felt good, not to preach, but to be preached to, confronted, convicted, instructed, forgiven, and empowered.

I had a great afternoon, like I was freed to live and serve in new ways. I forgot something, though. I forgot that our faith is always tested. James wrote "when" you experience, not "if." He also made it clear that in the testing of our faith God produces "endurance," which is absolutely necessary if we are to be "mature and complete, lacking nothing."  Well, before the day was out, the horizontal had tested my faith in the vertical. 

I have always been tested. You have, too. It's part of our sovereign Lord's plan for our good and His glory. Since I preach and teach every week, my testing always comes either before or after I preach. This week it was after. While the test had to do with a horizontal situation, the real test was vertical. Would I still hope in God, or would I become preoccupied with another failure of the horizontal to give me hope? 

When the horizontal intrudes on a child of God, they have a choice to make. Trust in God, or not. Even in that choice, the Lord gives help. Part of that help is in the Psalms of Lament that help us move through a process that moves us from 1) crying out, to voicing our 2) complaint, to 3) confessing our trust, to 4) prayer, and finally trusting Him in 5) praise. Here's one of those Psalms. If your faith is being tested, it might be just the prayer you need to turn from the horizontal and trust once again in God. 

Psalm 43

Vindicate me, God, and champion my cause
  against an unfaithful nation;
  rescue me from the deceitful and unjust person.
For you are the God of my refuge.
  Why have you rejected me?
  Why must I go about in sorrow
    because of the enemy's oppression?

Send your light and your truth; 
  let them lead me.
Let them bring me to your holy mountain,
  to your dwelling place.
Then I will come to the altar of God,
  to God, my greatest joy.
I will praise you with the lyre,
  God, my God.

Why, my soul, are you so dejected?
Why are you in such turmoil?
Put your hope in God, 
  for I will still praise him,
  my Savior and my God.