Thursday, August 10, 2017

Genuine Faith

"Counting one thousand gifts means counting the hard things
otherwise I've miscounted." Ann Voskamp

When you think about sending a thank you note, in order for it to be truly sincere, you should be truly thankful for what you've been given. It's hard to say thank you when what you now own isn't something you would have put on a wish list or registry.

But when it comes to the gifts God gives us, we are to be thankful for everything. Even the hard things. Probably especially the hard things.

1 Peter 1:6-9 In all 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 the proven genuineness of your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire - 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 end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls."

When we read a verse like this, it's tempting to just accept it for what it is, God's truth, and move past it without letting it deeply effect us with its incredible depth. There is one part we need to focus on, though, that has the potential to change everything about our perspective: the salvation of our souls.

For years, every time I saw the word "salvation" I operated under the assumption that it meant being saved from hell. It wasn't until I actually read a definition of it that the reality of this word opened the eyes of my heart and let me see what a gift salvation really, truly is.

"The Biblical idea of salvation involves three notions. First is the rescue from danger, harm, or even death of an individual, group, or nation. Most specifically salvation is the rescue from sin and death. Second is the renewing of the Spirit. Scripture explains that humanity fell from the original condition of moral purity into the state of sin. God's salvation always renews the spirit of a person to lead a life that is morally pleasing to Him. Third is the restoration of a right relationship with God. One of the effects of sin is separation from God. The written word of God makes clear that salvation restores one's relationship with God. (Romans 5:10)" Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary

The verses in 1 Peter take on an entirely new depth when we consider that the ultimate goal of our trials is for the end result of our faith, the salvation of our souls.

When we think about a symphony performing, if one particular section is playing the wrong part or heaven forbid the wrong song, the resulting sound is going to go from a beautiful melody filled with amazing harmonies to one that can only be described as noise. It will be unpleasant and certainly not enjoyable. When we face trials, they could be likened to the conductor attempting to get the off-track musicians back on the right page in the correct measure of music thus resulting in joyful noise once again. 

I truly believe that we when feel off, it's because something deep within us, our soul, knows it isn't in the right place, and that whatever put it there, needs to be corrected. The greater our resistance, the worse we feel. However, if we endure the trial, seeking God through it because our faith trusts and believes Him, and through submission accepts His direction, the result is a soul that has received its rescue, renewal, and restoration.

The problem is that we all have something within us that resists the difficult. We prefer the easy because so much of what we see in the world around us is hard and the last thing we want is great inner struggles over the little things that bring us comfort that are actually making matters worse. But it's also through these things that we get to experience the comfort of God. 

"The greatest gift we can ever receive is the gift of losing our earthly security and comfort 
so that we can unwrap the intimacy of the Savior and His heavenly comfort."  Ann Voskamp

But that makes us sqeamish to say the least.

The reality is that this will never come naturally to us. Part of it is probably because our view of God still has distortions based on our past sin and any unresolved fears that He's still waiting to drop the hammer at some point for that thing we did as a kid, in college, or for our first parenting fail. Or maybe that's just me. But if we take the whole of our lives and look back to see the good He's brought from the bad, and realize those things were trials that brought us closer to Him, that alone can increase our faith that this time will be the same. He is afterall unchanging.

Salvation, even with a clear definition, is a difficult concept to grasp because it is dependent on our ability to wrap our minds around just how gracious God is. We need to stop looking in mirrors and seeing our sin and instead see a child that is lavishly, unconditionally, and madly loved. If we can even begin to see glimpses of His vision in ourselves and others, not only would we respond with humility, but we could begin to live out Peter's exhortation to be holy as He is holy. 

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