Monday, March 24, 2014

No Pain, No Gain

Living a Christian life is hard.  I'm not going to pretend for a minute that it is all sunbeams and daisies, because it isn't. There are Christians who are stagnant and try to live in a bubble.  They have a salvation experience they can tell others about, but they can't really add much else to their testimony, because they have been sitting still since then.  They are calling themselves Christians but they are trying to live life by their own reasoning on how to live.  I know these Christians exist because I used to be one.

I went to church, I attempted to read my Bible, and I even tithed occasionally. I said I was a Christian, I asked for prayer through difficult tests or loss of loved ones. I threw the name of Jesus around just enough to give the impression that I was a believer. But I didn't actively seek to know him.  I didn't study my Bible, I read it and checked off a chapter on my list, but even that wasn't consistent. I lived a "Christian" life and took a stance on issues based on my own thoughts without actually studying the scriptures to see what God had to say.  I knew very little about the character of God or his son, so how in the world did I think that I was being Christ-like?

Only through actively seeking God did I begin to see just how far from Him I really was.  I stopped saying "I love Jesus" flippantly and actually fell in love with him!  I started actually studying my Bible and reading nonfiction (big deal for me) books that challenged me and encouraged my walk with Christ. Instead of fitting Jesus into my world, he became my world.  I began to see life in a brand new way.  I formed friendships with like-minded believers instead of people who like me called themselves Christians but lacked the relationship with Christ.  I became an active serving member of the church instead of focusing on what I could "get out of it." 

And it's when I actually became a growing Christian instead of a stagnant one, that I realized how hard being a Christian really is.  Because when we are striving to look more like Christ, we give our lives to God and say, "take me, break me, mold me, make me" and I'm here to tell you that the breaking part hurts.  Through the breaking and molding process, God is refining us. 

John Piper says it like this:
A refiner's fire refines. It purifies. It melts down the bar of silver or gold, separates out the impurities that ruin its value, burns them up, and leaves the silver and gold intact. He [God] is like a refiner's fire.
It does say FIRE. And therefore purity and holiness will always be a dreadful thing. There will always be a proper "fear and trembling" in the process of becoming pure. We learn it from the time we are little children: never play with fire! And it's a good lesson! Therefore, Christianity is never a play thing. And the passion for purity is never flippant. He is like fire and fire is serious. You don't fool around with it.
But it does say, he is like a REFINER'S fire. And therefore this is not merely a word of warning, but a tremendous word of hope. The furnace of affliction in the family of God is always for refinement, never for destruction.
 (You can read or listen to John Piper's complete sermon, "He Is Like a Refiner's Fire" here.)

 I think the "fear and trembling" that Piper mentions is absolutely accurate.  I never look forward to the growing pains that I experience when my relationship with Christ is growing stronger.  BUT the closeness I feel to him during and afterwards is amazing. And if I have to go through the pain of the fire for God to work through me, for His glory then it is completely worth it!

So which Christian are you, stagnant or growing?

Are you willing to go through the fire if God asks you to?

Love in Christ,


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