Today, I want to expand on a statement I made in my last post:
“I have to say that I felt totally unprepared for trials and suffering with what I had been taught in church…” I am sure many can relate to feeling motivated to pursue our inheritance in Christ and then disillusioned when we don’t see it manifest in the way we thought it should.
I think it is easy to get people excited about who they are in Christ, given the glorious hope and power we have in Him. I also think it is easy to get discouraged when things don’t look so full of glory.
Do we throw in the towel during those times? Do we say, “Well, the good life in Christ might be for a few select superhero saints?” Do we start to become more moved by what we haven’t seen than by what He has said? Has God forgotten about us when we face trying circumstances or does it mean we have sinned and are reaping consequences?
Paul understood that believers could get confused by the trials they encounter in light of the finished work of Christ which has brought us victory. He explained how we should respond to this tension in the following passage:
Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation (Rom. 5:2-4, NLT).
Maybe its not that God’s Word is not true or that we have done something wrong, but that we just need some simple endurance. This goes against the grain of our instant potato society, but also many of the common attitudes in the church. Much like the Jews of Jesus’ day, we tend to think of someone being outwardly blessed as someone who is doing all of the right things. Someone who is going through hard times is sometimes viewed as having some sort of failure, usually directly related to performance.
But perseverance and endurance are key to experiencing the reality of salvation in our souls. Jesus said, “By your steadfastness and patient endurance you shall win the true life of your souls.” (Luke 21:19, AMP)
He is not saying that endurance is how you get saved (neither am I). He is saying it is how the salvation we already have rises to the surface.
Who we are in Christ gets concealed in our Spirit when we first receive Him, but gets revealed in our soul as we grow in Him. Peter talked about this in his first letter. He begins by declaring how we have been spiritually reborn.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… (1 Pet. 1:3)
That is a spiritual experience, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus in John 3 (that which is born of the Spirit is spirit). But look at what Peter says a few verses later:
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Pet. 1:8-9).
Wait, I though going to heaven was the outcome of my faith? According to Jesus and Peter, the outcome of faith in Jesus should be becoming fully alive in our souls. The life in our spirit is supposed to affect our everyday “soul life” here on Earth.
What is also interesting, and also lines up with what Jesus and Paul said, is that between the time of receiving Christ (becoming alive in our spirit) and experiencing salvation in our souls, there is that aspect of running into trials.
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 Pet. 1:6-7).
Again, trials have a way of bringing what is deep in our spirit to the surface of our souls. I have experienced this first-hand and even realize that trials can be necessary, as Peter says, to give us that little push into faith so that God can further his work in us.
This does not mean God is a spiritual masochist or that we need to look for trouble. We will find plenty of opportunities by simply facing life while trusting the Comforter without retreating in our man-made comfort zones.
To sum it up, we as believers know that our Spirit WAS born again and our body WILL BE made incorruptible when Jesus returns. But what happens between those two events is all about God being revealed in our souls.
So whether we are in a glory or suffering moment, we have only reason to get happy because of the great love which our Father has for us. We can look forward to more and more of the life of Christ in our souls, both now and forever.
I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] (John 16:33, AMP)
Note: By spirit, I am referring to the eternal part of us that is aware of the spirit realm; the deepest part of our being. By soul, I am referring to the conscious part of our being; which commonly includes our mind, will, emotions, and imagination. The soul can be influenced by the spirit as well as our body/surroundings (which I will discuss further in a future post).