This month, our meditation has been excerpted from the book entitled, Bound to Be Free compiled by Jan Pit. In the following short quotation from the heart of Ghassan Khalaf (from Lebanon. Amidst bombings and destruction, Brother Khalaf faithfully visited victims of war to encourage them in their faith), there is fodder for reflection and perhaps application:
Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)
Frequently after wars, there emerges a class of people called 'the war rich'; those who seize the opportunity and improve their own conditions. This is exactly what happened after the war in Lebanon. But what about God's children? Do we accept the hard times as opportunities to prove the genuineness of our faith which is more precious than gold, so we might receive the crown of life?
Believers in Lebanon benefited much from passing through the fire of war. They became 'war rich' on the spiritual plane. Those who love God collect spiritual fortunes and plenty of practical experiences. In times of distress the cyclone shakes us so that our dry leaves and rotten fruit fall down. At the same time, trials increase our stability by extending our roots into the depths. After the storm, you see believers still holding their hands high, and roses in their hands. Because, if you see a person who has passed through the valley of terror and reached the land of peace, with a flower plucked from that valley in his hand, then you will know that God was with him and that his soul has kept the freshness of faith.
A moment of introspection: In few words, Brother Ghassan Khalaf has woven an intricate tapestry of truth that should not only leave us in wonder, but also inculcate within us an eagerness to apply what he has taught us. Let's consider this further.
Ghassan quotes a passage from James' letter in the New Testament. In verse 12, James the apostle, describes one who experiences life-borne trial and perseveres, as "blessed". One who stands strong through the storm understands the value of patiently trusting the Lord mid times of trial and suffering; Jesus gave special recognition to the Church at Ephesus, when He said of them, "I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary." (Revelation 2:3). Our Lord also made note of similar endurance or perseverance in the Church at Philadelphia: "Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth." (Revelation 3:10) So we who persevere through trials and suffering will be blessed in significant ways. We will escape the wrath of God shown in the Tribulation that is waiting in the wings. The apostle Paul also, however, told of the blessing inherent in suffering, in Romans 5:3-5. He writes: "...we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." So we are blessed through developing endurance, character, and hope, and we experience not only God's love, but the presence of the Holy Spirit.
If we look around us, and see only the mighty storm raging as many do, today, we might not see within such tumult "our dry leaves and rotten fruit" falling down, or discern our honing, our inurement, our strengthening. You would not see the testing of our faith that James describes when he writes, "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4) Our unneeded and truthfully unwanted dross falls away and we who, in the midst of the trials are steadfast, are revealed as "perfect and complete"--having all that we need. Jesus described the testing of faith, in talking with His disciples: "but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." (Luke 22:32); the apostle Paul described faith's testing as he thought back to the experience of Abraham concerning the then-expected birth of Isaac: "No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God," (Verse 20 of Romans 4:17-25). Paul recognized the faith-under-fire of the church in Rome, saying (regarding being grafted into the vine of Christ) "That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear." (Romans 11:20) He urged the church in Corinth to "Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong." (1 Corinthians 16:13). As we see the events described in prophecy transpire, one after the other, I exhort you--be strong.
We who persevere are blessed; we are promised the "crown of life"; as we work for the Lord and do everything for God's glory (1 Corinthians 10:31) in these times, indefatigably keeping our eyes on our Lord (Hebrews 12:1-3), let us too strive for the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-16). Let us "...work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4) as Jesus told His disciples. Our time is short. Work for God and His glory, for God and His purposes, for God and His Kingdom. In these we are blessed. In His address to the Church at Smyrna, Jesus described the crown of life as a reward of being steadfast in faith "unto death". (Revelation 2:10) Let us be about our Father's business. If we pass through the fire, remember the lessons of James 1:3 and Romans 5:3-5.
Ghassan Khalaf describes the "war rich"--persons who profit from war. This certainly includes those worldly scavengers who profit from others' misery and loss, but Brother Khalaf encourages each of us believers, who profit as listed below:
1. Believers become 'war rich' on the spiritual plane
2. Those who love God collect spiritual fortunes
3. Those who love God collect plenty of practical experiences
4. In times of distress the cyclone shakes us so that our dry leaves and rotten fruit fall down
5. Trials increase our stability by extending our roots into the depths
Ghassan asks each of us, "Do we accept the hard times as opportunities to prove the genuineness of our faith?" Trials, suffering, and hard times all help not only to develop our resiliency and stamina, but also help to gauge the character and strength of our faith. The apostle Paul recognized the genuineness of Timothy's faith (2 Timothy 1:5-7 NKJV) as Paul's protégé ministered alongside him in the mission field. Peter also urged us, his readers, to live a life that results in praise and glory and honor when Christ comes for His Church--saying "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, 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)
Throughout God's Word, believers are pressed to act without fear. "Do not fear", we read over and over again, in the pages of the Holy Bible. Fear is not of God (2 Timothy 1:7), and we do well to set it aside. Rather, when trials or suffering come, let such times work to increase our stability--extending our roots deep into the Vine that is Christ (John 15:1-7; Colossians 2:6-7; James 5:7-11). Rooted deeply in Christ, the cyclone's shaking will not dislodge us. Fear not; the storm will end. After the mêlée, the confusion, the turmoil, may we join the ranks of believers holding our hands high--clutching the rose of endurance and perseverance. Brother Khalaf says it well; "Because, if you see a person who has passed through the valley of terror and reached the land of peace, with a flower plucked from that valley in his hand, then you will know that God was with him and that his soul has kept the freshness of faith."