- Overcomer Literature Trust
SORROWFUL, YET ALWAYS REJOICING '
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while
you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold which perishes even though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed”
(1 Peter 1 v6-7).
Fountains of spiritual joy shoot into the light at startling and unexpected places. Their favourite haunts seems to be in the heart of the desert and are often associated with a land of drought. In many Scriptures we can find the fountain bursting through the sand and the song of praise rising in the night. If the words are a well of cool and delicious water, the context is frequently arid waste. Rejoicing surrounded by grief.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice” (Matt 5 v11-12). Who ever expected to find a well in that desert? As we tread the hot burning sands of being reviled, persecuted and falsely accused, do we expect to find a fountain of spiritual delight?
If life were a prolonged marriage feast we might expect to hear happy bells at every corner of the way, but to hear the joyous peal in the hour of grievous midnight is a great surprise. Jesus said, “I have told you this so that My joy may be in you” (John 15 v11). “My joy”, and yet Calvary loomed just twenty-four hours away!
The spiritual joy of the redeemed is to be continuous and not conditioned by the changing moods of every day. Joy is not to be dried up when we pass into material drought. When shadows settle on life and experiences darken into night, the night will not be without the illuminating presence of the Lord. “Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8 v12).
If our joy is to be continuous and persuasive we shall have to see that it is sustained. Happiness is usually the result of sensations and is often short lived, but joy is the product of deep, quiet trust through which the bright flame of love is sustained. “A living hope”, “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, that will not fade”, “a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”, “the resurrection of Jesus from the dead”, and “the power” of the Holy Spirit. If we are immersed in these great mercies of the Father we will be strengthened into confident rejoicing.
The trials may twist our lives with frustration yet the continuous thread of rejoicing need never be broken, “the joy of the Lord is our strength”. When the apostle was put to grief through many trials and life became dark, heavy and complicated, how did he face it? The gaoler put them in the inner cell, and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang hymns to God (Acts 16 v24-25), “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Cor. 6 v10).
These trials can come many ways and use varied painful weapons. Some of them may be found in the aggression of others. As we stand for the truth we may be confronted with persecution. Our ministry may be given an evil interpretation. Our loving care may be misrepresented. The trials may come in the problems of our circumstances. Success is denied and every way we take seems full of difficulties. It may be that the difficulties are in our own physical being. We may have incessant pain or suffer from nervous problems or be the victim of depression, but it is still possible to get so deep into the thought and purpose of God, and to dwell so near His heart, that we are able to “count it all joy" when we face trials of many kinds, and the trials are changed into blessings (James 1 v2).
Why are problems allowed? Why does our work not always succeed? Why are trials permitted? We may find a partial answer in the words of Peter, that trials are permitted to prove that our faith is genuine (v7). To prove faith means much more than to test it. First of all, it means to reveal it, to prove it to others. God wants to reveal and emphasise our faith, and so He allows the clouds. It is when there are clouds in our lives that the radiance of our faith is proved and proclaimed. At midnight Paul and Silas sang, and that song was heard by the other prisoners. “Now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials” that through it all the Lord might prove and reveal your faith.
But the trials do more than reveal the faith. The trial that reveals the faith also strengthens and confirms it. The fierce wind and rain which batter the tree are also the ministers of its growth. It is the trial which makes the saint. The man who keeps hold on God through one trial will find it easier to confront the next and use it for eternal good. These trials prove our faith, and reveal and enrich our resources. They strengthen and refine our spiritual understanding. They may strip us of our material possessions but they endow us with the wealth of that “inheritance which can never perish, spoil or fade - kept in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1 v4).
Finally there is one other radiant glimpse of the proved and invigorated faith, “That your faith . . . may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1 v7). When Jesus appears the trial of our faith is to result in praise. On that great day of unveiling, when all things are made clear, we shall discover what our trials have accomplished. We shall find that they were all the time the instruments of gracious ministry, strengthening us even when we thought we were being weakened. When the Lord appears many other things will become apparent. What we thought hard will then appear as gracious. What we recoiled from as severe we will find to have been merciful. What we thought of as forgetfulness will be revealed as faithfulness. Jesus was nearest when we thought Him farthest away. He was faithful even when we were faithless. At His appearing we will understand and appreciate our Lord - “The glory of the Lord will be revealed”.
We will find that when the Lord allowed the trial and our faith was revealed many a fainting heart took courage, and by the beauty of our devotion many a shy soul was secretly brought into the kingdom of God. We never knew it, but at His appearing this shall also appear. The supreme honours of heaven are reserved for those who have brought others there. “Those who lead many to righteousness, (shall shine) like the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12 v3). And so by the clouds of trials God leads us into the spacious sovereignty of glory.
‘God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.
He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.
O fearful saints, fresh courage take, the clouds you so much dread
are big with mercy, and shall break with blessings on your head’.
From: ‘The Redeemed Family of God’.