2016-08-11 - Trials Turned to Gold
Originally Published 1997-05-29
The late Keith Green is still known in CCM (Contemporary Christian Music) circles for a song called Trials Turn to Gold from his album, For Him Who Has Ears to Hear. The collection also contains the well known song, The Easter Song. 'Trials' is a heartfelt reminder to each of us that Jesus will take the pain of our defiance, disobedience, ignorance, mistakes and hurts, and use them to His glory as well as He will use anything. The first three are the most common, in that they represent our sins. The last two represent the wrongs (sins) that are committed against us. You might be thinking, "But I have learned to live without sin in my life. I am maturing in my faith!" Jesus tells us just the opposite about ourselves.
I John 1:8-10 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Let's be brutally honest. Most days we probably sin before our feet hit the floor. As I grow in Christ, I see more and more how I fall short of that mark of perfection that is required to enter Heaven on my own. I see the life Jesus expects of me and I know how far I am from it. In 1 Sam 15, defiance is equated with divination, and disobedience with idolatry. God takes a very dim view of sin indeed! And I know that I am powerless to defeat these forces at work in my flesh means that I must rely on Him in all things.
Romans 7:18-25 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do not wish. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not wish, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wishes to do good. 22 For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.
It takes God, acting on my behalf, to fight the battle against sin everyday "renewing my mind", as Paul says. I know people from all over, who have lived their own defiant lives or, suffered terrible abuse of all kinds, or struggle with wrenching sin daily, or have made one mistake, deliberate or not, and have a legacy to live with. The physical reminders vary from scars and memories, to perhaps a child conceived in a single, unguarded moment of passion. It is very easy to point fingers and shake our self-righteous heads. How could they let that happen? I have met people who have lived in a homosexual relationships. I know at least one who still does. God does abhor this lifestyle, but not the person in it! Do I beat them with my Bible and warn them they are on their way to Hell? What a warm, compassionate response that is. They know where I stand. People ask, "How can you separate the person from the action?" How did Jesus do it with the woman caught in adultery? How did He do it with you and me? He saw the need and filled it with His endless compassion. John 3:17 tells us that Jesus came to redeem, not condemn, the world. This excludes not one soul, regardless. He made the way for each of us. All we have to do is follow it. Remember this:
1 Cor 6:9-11 Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.
"And such were some of you …" Ouch! We don't always like to be reminded that we were not always the alleged spiritual giants that we are today. Then the magic word appears, "but" … God stepped in and loved you and me, and did for you what you or I could not do yourself or myself. He cleaned us up, and paid the unimaginable debt that we owed, and set us free. He cared for us when we were unlovable.
I John 4:19 We love, because He first loved us.
We were helpless. We don't like to think of ourselves like that, but we were! But God invested His life and time in us, when no one else would have given us the time of day. He reached out to us, while we were still struggling to still take the battered, ruined life we had and make it work.
Show that person, that unwed mother, that person who turns your stomach, then [ pick one of the above listed and insert here] and show them what you were shown. It was the love of Jesus that drew us, not a Bible thumping oration. Our hearts were already being worked on by Jesus long before that. If you don't see it, look again, hard.
But the unexpected child is loved and the scars of abuse become treasured reminders as the shattered pieces of their lives are rebuilt and reformed into something entirely new by the Master. They are not reminders of the sin that was done to us, or by us. But of the love that changed them and us. In time, if we grow in the agape love that Jesus waits to lavish on us, we can take those trials and share them, quietly. The trials that have turned to gold, become nuggets of hope for the young teen girl who finds herself pregnant and pouring our her heart to you. And you can say, "I've been right where you are.", and they are no longer alone. What a gift, and what an honor to give it in the name of our Savior. She knows you really understand. To the man who finds himself caught in an affair, or struggling with anger, or a past of sexual abuse, he knows you cared enough to share the hope that you know with him. This will reach people far faster than beating them with Bible verses. There will be a time when the verses will help as they take their first fledgling steps. But, when someone can take that old pain or sin and hand it back to God, He will use it and you to reach out to the broken hearts that litter this world from the shacks to the penthouse suites. Are their consequences for those sins? Yes. But, let God take them and spin them into something magnificent for you and for someone else. This is just one more quiet way to shake the world for Jesus Christ.
Lord Jesus, it is in those times when you take our proud hearts and crush them to powder that we grow the most. Help us to see these times of sin or hurt in our lives as chances for You to teach us and to prepare us for a time when that ill can become a source of hope and an anchor for someone else who is struggling. Give us the insight to see, and the courage to open our lives to help others. Amen.
Grace & Peace,
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.