Friday, September 19, 2008

"Greatly Rejoice..." Part 1

This has been a long week. But a good one.

My pastor’s sermon this week was really good. He is working us through a sermon series on 1 and 2 Peter. He is in the first chapter of 1 Peter.

This past week he was talking about the things God has done for us just in the first few verses.

Peter first praised God then reminded us of the things that He has done:
• He showed us great mercy
• He gave us new birth
• into a living hope
• into an inheritance; one that will never perish, spoil or fade
• the inheritance is kept for us in heaven

Then Peter told us that through our faith, God shields us with His power. Can you believe that our faith in god activates His power to protect us? The same power that raised Christ from the dead, that power God uses to shield us, according to our faith in Him.

The other verses that hit me follow:
“In these 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 though refined by fire - may be proved genuine and result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”
1 Peter 1:6-7

I can identify with having to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. I suppose if you have read my blog, you can tell the sufferings. I have talked about them so frequently. But the victories. I try to share them as well, but so many times I find myself focusing on my struggles, the things I am working through and trying to do. I end up not always showing what God is doing. I forget to “greatly rejoice.”

What am I supposed to “greatly rejoice” in? God’s mercy, the new birth I have been given, living hope, glorious inheritance, and even my faith.

This brings up a bit of a tangent. Forgive me as I pursue it.

So many times in my post I have ask a question like “Do I believe…? If I… then I HAVE TO.” Or like above I say, “I am supposed to…” I don’t HAVE to believe any thing. It is a free choice. I want to greatly rejoice in all these things God has done. It is hard. I get tired. I get frustrated. But at the same time I really want to keep this list of the things He has done for me in my head. I have pretty much memorized verses 3-9 out of the first chapter of Peter.

Every time I find myself starting to lose focus, to allow myself to look at things with the wrong focus, I don’t look at the things of my faith as a choice. I end up putting pressure on myself. I say that I have to believe, or I have to do, or I have to trust. God doesn’t force me to do anything. All He wants is to place the choice in front of me to trust Him or not. To love Him or not. It’s about my free will to choose. He doesn’t want robots who are programed to do the right thing. Because then they are doing those things because they are “forced” to, not out of love for their Father.

God has given me these things because He so wants a relationship with me. He wants a relationship with all of us. I want to always greatly rejoice in just that alone! He wants relationship! That isn’t something you can force with someone. Have you ever tried to be friends with someone who doesn’t want to be friends with you? Or tried to talk with someone who wasn’t interested in even talking? It is really difficult and it hurts.

We are supposed to love God, greatly rejoice in all He has given us, have faith in Him, trust Him, etc. But that is our free choice to do so.

I am making the choice to greatly rejoice.

So, back to my original thought.

If I greatly rejoice in the things that God does for me, that He has done for me, it changes my focus from my problems, to His gifts and victories. Even when I am suffering grief in trials, I will still rejoice. Through these sufferings my faith is being proved genuine… refined by fire, just like gold.

I think that our faith is so precious to God, of such great worth, that He wants to refine it, purify it, help it to become more genuine, to gain strength so that it will bring praise, glory and honor when Jesus is revealed. Even one of the people coming to Jesus for healing for someone said “I believe Lord, help my unbelief.” He chose to believe, but needed God to strengthen his faith.

Through all the times I have gone through, I have been really growing. As hard and painful as it has been to process through the past hurts in my life, and allow myself to grieve through them, this process has strengthened my faith.

Even when I feel like I have been faltering and going backwards, God has shown me that He has been “proving my faith genuine.” He has given me a deeper faith, and greater trust in Him.
Now that is something to greatly rejoice in!

“Though you have not see 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.”
1 Peter 1:8-9

I do love Him. I do believe in Him. In a deeper way than I ever have before. The more I think about what He has done, what He is doing, and what He is going to do in my life, the more I am filled with that joy. His joy. He is helping me to reach the goal, he has given me salvation, and is working it out in my life… the salvation of my soul.

I know there is more for me to work through right now. I know that I have to work through my anger at Him, but the process is started. I have to work through some other hurts in my life, but the process is started. I have to combat some more lies, but the process is started. I am saying “have to” here, because these are choices I have made. I have made the choice to continue in the healing process that God has started. I want to.

I want to see my faith grow, my trust grow, my hope grow.

All of this will happen as I continue to follow God through the trials.

I can say that I am grateful for the trials, because they will strengthen my faith and my trust in God. As they strengthen, I will be able to rejoice more and more. There will be more chances to “dance in the streets,” and bring praise and honor and glory to the only One worthy of it… my Jesus who has brought me through the fiery trials.

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