Before my diagnosis, I took my medical journey lightly and assumed the difficulty would end soon. I prayed and went about my business. As the year closed, my illness progressed, and the trial no longer had a casualness to it. The stabs of pain became more prominent, and I lay awake several nights wondering what was going on.
Green Stamp Faith
The other day I found a Google image of an S&H Green Stamp book. Retailers handed the sticky label to customers after spending a prearranged amount of money. The number of stamps returned to the S&H warehouse equaled the value of one item from the catalog.
The day finally came for dad to drive us to the warehouse. I clutched the book to my chest and walked ahead of my folks to the entrance. Mom and I gasped at all the shiny objects before us. Dad pulled a catalog from a rack and pointed out some things which equated to the number of stamps we collected. Mom liked none of them. Hopeful the prize would come to me, I searched the room for something to “buy.” Yet, the longer I looked, the more discouraged I became. There was nothing but blenders, vacuums, dishes, platters, etc. “Where’s the kid stuff?” I asked. Dad told me we needed to complete another two books to purchase a giant bear, and the dolls were temporarily out of stock.
Unfair! How could this be? I did the work; where was my reward? Well, the licking madness ended, and I resolved never to work for a bunch of meanies.
Isn’t this like the Christian life? We live with a works mentality. Our minds think that service to Christ must equate to unending blessings. Thus, when trouble arises, we’re surprised by it. Hardships feel unwarranted because we sacrificed our time, money, and efforts to God.
However, the Bible says the rain falls on the just and the unjust. God can bless whomever He chooses in any way He deems best.
So, what if the ordeal has nothing to do with obedience? Then it’s obvious. You’re experiencing God’s sanctifying work, designed to transform you into His likeness.
First Peter 1:6-7 says, “In this, you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
The best way to describe a trial of sanctification is the story of Michelangelo. Once, an associate watched the great Master set up a marble slab in his studio. Michelangelo stepped back and observed the granite for a long time. Then Michelangelo fetched a hammer and knocked off pieces from its façade. The assistant, no longer able to bear the harmful act, held Michelangelo’s upraised arm and shouted, “Master! What are you doing?” Michelangelo frowned and said, “There’s an angel inside, and we must get it out.”
God’s commitment to our sanctification means He will allow us to undergo suffering to show us what is in our hearts and authenticate our faith. The next time you experience a painful trial, ponder if the Lord is using that event to transform you into His image.
Hebrews 12:11 says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”