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SHOULD WE EXPECT TRIALS IN OUR WALK?   


There is a great deal of discussion going on at present about the persecution and suffering that is going on in places like India and parts of northern Africa. Much of this stems from, on the surface at least, to the aspect of religious fanaticism, stemming from the fact that these attacks appear to be coming from two groups of people who are firmly rooted in religious zealotry.

While there is a definite element of truth in this, we certainly cannot totally rule it out on the argument that appears to be prevalent in explaining this. That is, that it is all about the fact that these religions are steeped in the aspect of self-sacrifice being the way that they can reach their heaven.

Now we cannot rule that aspect out totally, because the shedding of blood as the method for the forgiveness of sin has its origins as far back as the origin of mankind. In Genesis we read of this account:

And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering but He did not respect Cain and his offering
Genesis 4:3-5 (New King James)

Now, let us not lose sight of the fact that attitude most possibly had a lot to do with the acceptance and rejection of these offerings. However, it does introduce to us the first account of “blood sacrifice” to get oneself right with God.

It is this latter aspect that it is found as a fundamental belief in just about every (if not every) tribe of people in the world; that blood is required for cleansing of our wrongdoings and as a way to please God (or the gods, depending on the viewpoint). This sacrifice ranges from that of birds and small animals all the way through to human sacrifice.

From this, then, we can see that the idea of sacrificing other humans (as well as self-sacrifice or martyrdom) is not really that strange. Sure, the idea of human sacrifice is an abhorrence to many people but, it is still a part of the overall aspect of human culture.

Hardly surprising then that fanatical religions and satanic cults are going to practice this aspect  at some level or another.

Secondly, the aspect of the sacrifice of blood as a cleansing before God is certainly re-enforced throughout the Old Testament, as the sacrifice of lambs, goats and bulls was a foundation of the Mosaic Law. Very strict guidelines and enforcement of this is one of the strong underlying themes found throughout the Old Testament.

However, what does the Bible actually say about this. It tells us, quite clearly, that whilst it was a requirement of the Law, God preferred a repentant heart over any sacrifice.

But, the Law is the Law and so sacrifice is required. Hence the reason that Christ came into this world as a human being. He became the perfect sacrifice, ending all other sacrifices. Added to that, it was a “once only” event (otherwise Christ would have to keep dying in order to set us free).

So, the Christian faith is also built on a “blood sacrifice”, only in this case it is done and finished and no more is required, as such.

What has this to do with trials in our life, I hear you ask?

Quite a lot, in my opinion. Throughout the New Testament, there are references to living a “Christ-like” life if we profess to be Christians. There is a poster I have seen around a lot lately that says: “You are the only Bible that many people will ever read.” That is rather a scary thought, in a way, because it means that our life needs to be Christ-like 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s not just a Sunday (or Saturday, depending on your Sabbath day) role but an everyday role, because people will constantly be watching you to see how you fail. I say how you fail because, by our very human nature, we are bound to fail from time to time, no matter how strong our faith is. Those failings are what our critics see, in preference to all the “right” things that we do.

Now, if we are going to be Christ-like then, we must be prepared to experience some of the things that Christ experienced in His time on earth. If you read through the Gospels, you will find that Christ had His critics; He had those who wanted to trap Him; and, of course, He had those who abused Him, especially in the lead up to His death on the Cross. Those who have seen the movie, “The Passion Of The Christ” will have seen a glimpse of the horrors He experienced. I say a glimpse because one historian, when asked about the brutality shown in the film was quoted as saying: “I think they understated the horror in that scene. The Romans were far more barbaric than that when they dealt with criminals.” What that film showed was bad enough, as far as I am concerned, so if it was probably worse, then we can visualise the cruelty He suffered. Now being Christ-like must include that possibility.

Those in many parts of the world will attest to such suffering. What we are hearing today is just a part of it. I read much of what is happening in India at present, and the horrific pictures that are being shown are testimony of the price of being Christ-like.

But what does the Bible say about such suffering and trials. St Peter, in his first letter, sums it up like this:

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful test you are suffering, as though something unusual was happening to you. Rather be glad that you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may be full of joy when his glory is revealed.
I Peter 4:12-13 (Good News Bible)


Now, if that isn’t a warning of what we must be prepared for, then I don’t know what is. I have certainly heard it argued that Peter was only referring to those of his own time who were suffering persecution. They are the same people who claim that most of the teachings of the New Testament were only meant for those who were alive at that time. My answer to that: then why believe the New testament at all - it is an argument that makes no sense at all.

Okay, so we are to be prepared for persecution. The warning is clear.

As we further read into The Revelation, we are clearly told that as the end of time draws near, persecution of Christians will increase drastically (isn’t that happening around the world today), finally culminating in the 42 months (3 years and 6 months) of the devil’s final rule. An interesting aspect here is to note that this is almost a “parliamentary” term of office - 4 year terms are common in many parts of the world for presidents and politicians and many countries are changing to this time span. We can be thankful that God has decreed that 4 years is too long, but it is an interesting observation.

Let’s return to Peter’s warning. What does it really mean to us?

The first thing is that if we are not prepared for such trials, then they will catch us by surprise and possibly defeat us (that is what the devil is hoping will happen, at least). These trials can be personal (such as losing someone close to you) through the whole spectrum to direct physical attacks such as many now bear testimony to happening. Peter warns us to be prepared.

So, we must not be at all surprised when such things occur to us. Listen to what St. James says in his letter:

 “My brothers, consider yourselves fortunate, when all kinds of trials come your way.”
James 1:2 (Good News Bible)
 
Consider ourselves fortunate!!!!!! Wow! That is some request that James is making to us. But isn’t that exactly how Jesus reacted to His trials?

Like Peter, James tells us to be glad when these things happen.

Why?

I believe there are two reasons for it.

The first is that it gives us some small insight as to what Christ went through in His life on earth. We can then start to appreciate the price He has already paid for us in His sacrifice.

Secondly, it is character building. The Bible promises us that we will not be put to tests we cannot come through (with the strength and help of the Holy Spirit) and it also tells us that Christ has always been there before us, so He knows exactly what we are going through. Remember that gold, which is such a valuable item and melts easily, is always put through the fire in order to make it more pure. We are dealt with in the same way.

In conclusion I say this. Many years ago I heard a preacher say that if you are not having trials and persecutions then your faith is of no threat to the devil and he is not worried about what you might be able to do. Count it a blessing that you are facing trials because it is a sure sign that you have the devil scared of what your Christian potential really is.

R.J. Burling