Christian Living, Church, Culture & Society, Faith

When Faith is Tested

AN EXPOSITION OF 1 Peter 1:6-9

     6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations [testings]:

By speaking of the heaviness of the believers, due to their various trials, the apostle acknowledges the emotional side of the human heart. Emotional distress is real. It is the source of much sadness, sorrow, and sickness. Medical science has studied the relationship between mental health and physical health. There is a widespread consensus among doctors that when a person’s mental health is good, their physical health greatly improves. A lot of physical health is psychosomatic which is proven, in part, by the distribution of placebos. A placebo is a pill, or medication, that has no medical value but is given to a patient to make them think they are taking something to help them. And, many times, the placebo works. The patient tells the doctor how much better they feel.

The larger point, is that Christians are not immune to being in heaviness. When John the Baptist was arrested and unjustly thrown into prison, he became despondent, and began to doubt his faith. John sent several of his disciples to Jesus to ask a question. “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matt. 11:3). The faith of John wavered through his various testings.

In matchless grace, Jesus moved to reassure John. Jesus told John’s disciples to, “Go and show John again those things which you do hear and see: 5 The blind receive their sigh, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel, preached to them” (Matt. 11:4-5).

A key word of Jesus in His response to doubting faith leading to depression is “again.” “Go and show John again,” said Jesus.

The Lord knows how faith can grow weak and falter. We do need to be reassured of God’s love, our personal salvation, and the truth of the doctrine of eternal security. Some of us need to be told again, and again, of the mercy of God, and the great pity He extends to great sinners.

Satan knows how to discourage the saints. The world, the flesh, and the devil can unite to bring great heaviness to our hearts.

But then, hope revives, in the Lord. We remember again what great things God has done on our behalf. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

The joy that comes to replace doubt and despair will be great in its passion and intensity. The joy will be passionate because Jesus is coming again!

     7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

When Jesus comes, all hope will revive. Our Lord will be greeted with praise, and honor, and glory.

“When Jesus comes, the tempter’s power is broken;
When Jesus comes, the tears are wiped away,
He takes the gloom and fills the life with glory,
For all is changed when Jesus comes to stay.”

Homer Rodeheaver

Also, at the Second Advent of Jesus, praise, and honor, and glory await those who have suffered for the sake of righteousness according to gospel terms. The praise will come as the Lord says, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:21). Honor and glory will come when the Lord continues to say, “I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:21, 23).

8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:

Christ, though the believer has not yet seen Him in the flesh. Loving Christ is more than loving an idea or a memory. It is loving a living person. To love the name of Jesus is to love Him as the resurrected Savior.

“There is a Name I love to hear,
I love to sing its worth;
It sounds like music in my ear,
The sweetest Name on earth.

O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me!”

Frederick Whitfield

     9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

The grand objective of living out the ethics of the Christian faith, is to bring glory to God through gospel obedience, leading to the salvation of the soul.

Today, if you are in heaviness of heart, let me suggest a divine solution. The solution begins by honestly evaluating the source of heaviness.

It may be that the origin of sadness is unbelief. There are people who have stopped believing in the promises of God. There are people who doubt the love of God. They doubt the faithfulness of God. They no longer believe that God hears and answers prayers. Their faith is being tested, and they are not doing well.

It is also possible that the origin of heaviness is erroneous doctrine. Many people have embraced the Gospel of Self-esteem. They have been told to believe in themselves, and all shall be well. But then, reality sets in. There are deep and dark hidden secrets of bad behavior. A person knows if they are living a lie. Individuals know if they are not what they should be in the sight of God. No amount of self-esteem theology can remove the guilt and shame of not being right before God.

When a false gospel is embraced, it leads to disappointment, disillusionment, and depression. Many who have embraced the Health and Wealth Gospel have had this experience. There are multitudes who have been led to believe that God wants all people be healthy, and wealthy in material possessions. Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). The apostle Paul wrote “that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). There is a place for pain and suffering in the plan of God. It is in pain and suffering that we learn how sufficient the grace of God is.

C. S. Lewis wrote, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

When a false gospel is followed, the joy of the Christian life will be lost. The Galatians lost their joy when false teachers came, and told them they must go back under the Law in order to be a good Christian. Many foolish Galatians believed the false teaching of the Judaizers, and fell from the grace method of salvation. They lost the joy of the Lord, and the freedom that is found in Christ. They became depressed.

Another source of heaviness in the heart can be traced back to God’s appointed trials, conflicts, and failures.

Sometimes, the Lord’s providential work in our lives is misunderstood, and therefore resented and resisted.

We want to be happy.
God wants us to be holy.

We want to live without a care in the world.
God wants us to live for Him.

We want to have our will, and our way, in all things, and without discipline.
God wants us to be a good disciple.

We want to know only about those things that are of interest to us.
The Holy Spirit is determined to make known to us the full counsel of God.

If any person wants to remove the heaviness of the heart, then take three steps

First, submit to God’s providential care. There are times when our hearts are heavy. We stop believing in God’s loving care and concern for us. Sometimes individuals want to hurt themselves. In America, 44, 965 people commit suicide each year. According to the World Health Organization, Nepal has an estimated 6, 840 suicides each year. There is much heaviness of heart.

In 1763, when he was thirty-two years old, William Cowper had a heavy heart. His life was filled with fiery trials, to the point he wanted to end his life by taking poison (laudanum). Surviving the poison, Cowper rented a carriage, and was driven to the Thames River. He intended to throw himself into the water and drown, but some mysterious power restrained him. The next morning he took a knife, and fell upon it, but the blade broke. His life was saved. But he was still driven by depression, and tried to hang himself. He was cut down unconscious, but still alive. By God’s grace, Cowper came to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. As he grew in grace and knowledge, he wrote these words.

“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform.
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.”

William Cowper
1731 – 1800

God moved in a mysterious way in the life of William Cowper, His wonder to perform in the saving of his soul. God works in your life, and mine too.

You and I may not understand all of God’s mysterious ways in our lives, but what is certain, is that He works His sovereign will. There is joy in submitting to it. The conflicts and trials of life only last for a season, but the joy lasts forever.

Second, Study afresh, and study diligently, the Word of God. Martin Luther said he studied his Bible as he gathered apples. First he shook the whole tree, that the ripest might fall; then he shook each limb, and when he had shaken each limb, he shook each branch, and after each branch, every twig; and then he looked under every leaf. Search the Bible as a whole, shaking the whole tree. Read it rapidly, as you would any other book. Then shake every limb—study book after book. Then shake every branch, giving attention to the chapters when they do not break the meaning. Then shake each twig, by a careful study of the paragraphs and sentences, and you will be rewarded if you will look under each leaf, by searching the meaning of the words.—The Christian Fundamentalist

Third, seek to know the Lord Jesus personally and intimately through prayer, mediation, and a determined obedience to do what He commands. Gospel obedience can be performed by doing what Peter did the day he walked on water. Peter kept his eyes on Jesus, and found supernatural strength to do the impossible. Only when Peter took his eyes off the Lord Jesus did he flounder and fall into the sea. Then his heart became heavy, for he thought he was going to drown. “Lord!” “Save me!” “I perish!” Peter cried out, and so must you, and so must I. We have no natural strength. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But when we turn our eyes to Jesus, we find supernatural strength to do the impossible, much like walking on water.

In self-examination, in submitting to the Sovereign, in the study of Scripture, in seeking to be close to Jesus, we find the capacity to greatly rejoice, the hope of His return, and eternal salvation.

“It will be worth it all when we see Jesus;
Life’s trials will seem so small
when we see Christ.

One glimpse of His dear face
all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race
till we see Christ.”

Despite the trials of faith, trust in the Lord. Job said, “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

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