The Trials [part 3]
In this third and final part, I want to just wrap up…
In the book of Matthew it says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, because the kingdom of heaven is theirs. (11) “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. (12) Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12 HCSB)
As Christians, sometimes we expect things to get easier for us, since we are on God’s side… We face Trials… Besides persecution, I’m sure you can think of 100 other examples of types of trials we might face in life… Why do we have to go through them in the first place?!
I dealt with that question a little bit previously in a post called The Suffering, but perhaps that is a question left to God. Perhaps each time, there is a different reason with each person. Perhaps there is only one reason. I do not know exactly. But what I do know is that there is a reason. There is a hope at the end of all the trials, the suffering and the pain. A true hope. One that will not fail us. One who knows and has felt all that we have been through…
At the end of time, billions of people were scattered on the vast plain before God’s Throne. Some shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But many other groups talked heatedly, not cringing with shame, but with belligerence.
“Can God judge us? How can He know about suffering?”, snapped a pert brunette. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. “We endured terror … beating … torture … death!”
In another group a Negro boy lowered his collar. “What about this?” he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. “Lynched, for no crime but being black.”
In another crowd there was a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes: “Why should I suffer?” she murmured. “It wasn’t my fault.”
Far out across the plain were thousands of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for all the evil and suffering He had permitted in His world. <!–more–>How lucky God was to live in Heaven, where all was sweetness and light, where there was no weeping and fear, no hunger or hatred, no sickness or sorrow. What did God know of all that human-kind had been forced to endure in this world? After all, God leads a rather sheltered sort of life, they said.
So each of these groups sent forth a leader, especially chosen because they had suffered the most. A Jew, a Negro, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child, an AIDS victim. In the center of the vast plain, these leaders consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case, item by item, leader by leader, to God. It was rather pertinent.
Before God could be qualified to be their Judge, He must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth as a human being, as a man.
Let him be born of the most despised race, a Jew, in poverty-stricken conditions. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. As a child, let him be forced to flee as a refugee, and live several years in a foreign country. Then give him a work to do, and an ideal to uphold that is so difficult that even his own family will think him out of his mind when he tries to do it. Let him be betrayed by his closest colleague, into the hands of those who hate him. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury, and convicted by a cowardly judge.
At the last, let him see what it means to be terribly, terribly alone – forsaken by all his friends. Let him be tortured. Then let him die. Let him die the most excruciating, and humiliating death possible, before a taunting, reviling crowd, that not only verified his death but contributed to it.
As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the whole assembled throng. When the last leader had finished pronouncing his part of God’s sentence, there was a long silence. No-one uttered another word. Nobody moved.
For suddenly, everybody knew that God had already served His sentence.
The Long Silence
The Bible says that “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” (Psalms 46:1 ASV)
To the best my memory will allow, I’ll finish with a rendition an illustration I once read:
A man is carrying a cross (his burdens, pains, and sufferings) through his life and complaining that it is too long and too heavy. There is too many problems, too many obstacles, and so on. He stops one day and asks God to cut some off because he won’t carry it anymore if God doesn’t.
God says to him, “I think you should keep this size… you may need it later.”
The man pleads and begs God to cut some off for him.
So then God says, “Alright then, have it your way,” and He reluctantly cuts some off the bottom to make it lighter.
Again, sometime later, the man is complaining again about his cross even still, being too heavy. “God, won’t you cut some of this weight off for me again?”
“I think you need to hang on to it, my child,” God replies.
“But it’s too hard! I’ll never make it!”
“I’ll give you water to drink, and rest.” God says again.
“But I don’t want this weight any longer!”
“Alright then,” God says, “Have it your way.” And God cuts again some of the cross off for the man.
This process happens several times over and over in this man’s life.
Then one day down the road, the man is carrying his now short, light weight cross and he approaches a large cliff. He sets his cross down and sits on the ground, and begins to complain to God that there is a large cliff in front of him and he doesn’t know how to get across. After some time, he see’s others walking up behind him carrying crosses. He watches one come up, lay their cross down over the cliff, and walk on the cross, over the cliff. Once on the other side, they pick it back up, and continue carrying it on.
“What a great idea!” he thinks to himself. “Why didn’t I think of that?”
The man gets up, picks up his cross, and begins to stretch it out across the cliff… but then he notices a terrible thing… He notices that his cross is too short… it is not long enough to reach across the cliff.
He has asked God time and time again, to make his cross lighter, so he wouldn’t have to carry it, and now when he needs what God gave him in the beginning, he doesn’t have it.
My friends, as Christians, trials will come, but it is okay! God is with us.
“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, (3) knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. (4) But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4 HCSB)
*The present copy of The Long Silence was taken from Lambert Dolphin’s site, www.ldolphin.org. Lambert once gave credit to Barry Setterfield, www.setterfield.org, but Barry has said he is not the author. Barry says he got the essay from George Spall, in Queensland, and believes George (deceased) may have been the author. The earliest known copy of the essay appears in the book “The Cross of Christ” by John R.W. Stott (1986) but the essay author is not referenced in that book. Please contact me if you know the author.