Grace, Love, and Faith are three words that reverberate in my heart, and should in the hearts of all who profess Christ. As a Christian, I trust in God’s unchanging Love that sacrificed all for my sake. I put my faith in that sacrifice, and trust that it is and will be sufficient to satisfy God’s Justice and Wrath against the sin that I was born into, the sin that I am, and the sins that I commit. I have trusted in Christ’s completed work of Grace on the cross for my Salvation. As the Apostle Paul clearly taught the Ephesians we are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from ourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast. There is absolutely nothing you and I can do to earn it, and no more we can do to add to it otherwise there would be the potential for prideful boasting. God is Love and that Love was made manifest among us when He freely sent Jesus Christ, His only Son, into the world to become the propitiation for our sins. Jesus is the embodiment, the very essence of God’s Grace that, through faith, we might live eternally through Him. We acquire Salvation or are Saved through putting our faith in His act of perfect Love and completed work of Grace on the Cross.
So the question then becomes what is faith and how do we know we have it? I mean truly know that we have it? Hebrews 11:1 defines it this way- “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Anyone can say they believe or have faith, confess Jesus as Lord, and repeat or say a prayer. But what is the substance and evidence of the faith we profess in our lives? It is through faith we are saved…so we must understand faith. And contrary to the teachings of pop-culture “christianity”, examine our lives in light of the Scriptures; frequently testing ourselves as to whether or not our faith is biblically genuine and if we truly have it. Am I asking you to question the authenticity of your Salvation? No. I am asking you to test yourselves against the evidence of faith clearly taught in the Bible, and examine the authenticity of your faith, through which authentic Salvation comes. There are many evidences of true biblical faith talked about in the Scripture but we will only be look at just one piece of evidence here in this blog.
My last blog mentioned Hebrews twelve and how the Father’s discipline shows that we are not illegitimate children. In other words, if we see the evidence of His Discipline in our lives, it is one of the things that can assure us that we are not only truly in His Love, but that our faith is genuine and that we are truly one of His children. However, the Bible does limit our legitimacy as sons and daughters only to godly discipline. Another piece of evidence the Bible speaks of is the trials we face in our lives and our response to them. James, a book that is very much about the authenticity of faith, teaches us to consider it pure joy when trials come. And that it is through our trials that the Lord produces endurance or steadfastness in us, as we walk through life towards the completion of our faith journey when we will lack in nothing. But yet, in our humanness it seems that most of us seldom ever consider our trials, as we are enduring them, to be joyful experiences. Peter takes it even further in his first epistle and directly links suffering trials to the evidence of our faith. In chapter one verses three through nine he says:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
We can see clearly how the Lord communicates through Peter that trials, even those we suffer in, can correlate directly with our faith and whether it’s genuine. We also can gain tremendous understanding about how God is using them, which I think may help us to learn to be more joyful as we endure the grief in a current or future trial. In verse seven it says: “These (trials) have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” God uses trials in our lives to refine us. He has used many in my refining process and is continually refining me as I am a man still far from perfection. But we must ask ourselves what does it truly mean to be refined by the fire of a trial? It helps when you know how and understand the process of refining metals like gold or steel.
Allow me to illustrate. Steel is strengthened through a purification process. It is heated to extreme temperatures, pounded into form, and cooled. Then the process is repeated again and again. The Steel is repeatedly heated, the impurities pounded away and then so that the metal can bond, it is cooled. This illustration of the refining process can give us tremendous perspective as we are being refined and sanctified through the fire of the trials that test our faith.
For me, and I hope for all true believers, it is such a comfort to know what God is really doing in us as we experience difficult times; trials of all kinds. We are being refined. We are being heated by the things that He is working on and out of us through the tempering process of trials by fire. We are being pounded into form by the Holy Spirit and then cooled by the gentle reassurance of Christ’s presence in our lives. Our impurities, through this purification process, are being driven out of us, in that our faith may be proved genuine resulting in praise, glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ. In the midst of these refining trials, though often painful, if we seek Him, they can be some of the most intimate times we experience with Jesus during our earthly lives. Trials can be the gateway to strengthen our relationship with Him like nothing else. It is in this that we can learn to find the great joy set before us through life’s many trials as we persevere, endure, and allow steadfastness to have its full effect proving our faith to be genuine.