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Philippians 4:1-7; Trial: Safety or Sorrow

My pastor asked our small group yesterday what the  verse in James meant in chapter 1: Count it all joy, when you experience trials of many kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. How do you count the joy in trial? It was here, in this book of the Bible, on these pages, that my faith took off. I met Jesus. Just recalling that feeling brings me to tears. I had fallen to my knees and right there, in those moments, the floor was the most comfortable place I had ever known. But I’ll tell you lately, that same “on the floor” feeling hasn’t felt as safe. It’s felt more like sorrow. but joy? PHILIPPIANS 4:1-7 focusing on 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always again, I will say rejoice.  Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God And the peace of God which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in CHRIST JESUS.” Just wow. We want to, I have, asked questions like: What about tomorrow? What happens next? Is this ever going to be okay? Am I? and Paul says y’all look- rejoice, literally celebrate Jesus. Always; Constantly. No matter what show Christ’s gentleness, because He lives with you in you. Forget about it; quit worrying about all of it. Go to God, lay it down. Be filled with gratitude, and give Him your deepest desires and God will give you a peace so great that you will not even have to ask “what about” or “am I” because Jesus. He is going to protect your heart from breaks and your mind from lies. He is God. Rejoice. Count it all joy, when you face many trials. but why? Romans 5 says we rejoice in our sufferings knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. My experience with the ‘church Jesus’ is being saved meant being safe. Safe- uninjured; with no harm done. Uninjured- not harmed or damaged Harm- injury, especially that which is deliberately inflicted Already, after only a year and a half of salvation, I have been injured many times, injuries that have done some damage, damage that was absolutely meant for me. From God. “I am the true vine, and my father is the vine dresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit” John 15:1-2 Have you ever pruned a rose bush? You cut off beautiful growth. Flowers that you worked so hard to develop, and they just fall to the ground. Almost just wasted. Then with time… after those cuts, they grow back- better; more. God has allowed me to hurt, not to hurt me, but to grow me better; to make me more. God has allowed you to hurt to grow you better; to make you more. We act like fools and we’re cut off; we act like not-fools and we’re cut on. God wants the absolute best for us. He wants to help, and sometimes His help is hard because He is trying to produce things from us that are not innately in us: things like forgiveness in the presence of unforgiveness; like patience in the company of bitterness; like love assembled so close to resentment. Things we aren’t naturally compelled to invoke on ourselves to give. Things, hard things, of God but not of man. It’s in these times we find ourselves doubting God because we are taught that God is a God of comfort. and He is. God is so comfortable… even in the uncomfortable, especially in the uncomfortable… and the cultured church leaves that part out. If we only loved God when God was good,  we would not be serving God, we would be using Him. John chapter 9 tells a story about a blind man. The disciples wanted to know who had done wrong, him or his parents, that he was born blind….. and Jesus tells them they have it all wrong. Neither of them had to do anything wrong, but he is blind so that the works of God can be glorified. After this, He spit on the ground, made mud, and restored the mans vision and the Glory of God and His power was displayed. For a while, this was hard for me; some days it still is, but we live in a fallen world where good behavior is not always rewarded and bad behavior is not always punished. Bad people will get good things. Good people will get good things. Fair enough.. but then… Bad people will suffer and so will good people. God, lately, has taught me to stop believing in coincidences. When I’ve popped my mouth off to the very people I’ve willed my heart to be good to no matter what, it is no “coincidence” that I conveniently open my bible to Romans 12 for a bible study. That would be Jesus shaking His fingers at me. God is power and God is control- over the big details and over the little ones and it’s in our best interest to pay attention to both. Rejoicing hurts sometimes, but there is a mystery surprise, a blessing that brings even more healing, underneath the spit and the mud. Always. Every bad thing, God intended for good. Something bad surfaces and we automatically feel like we need to do something, and we’re missing the point. Again: trial… endurance.. endurance… character… character… hope… God wants us to be still. I know its lost on us sometimes, but God doesn’t need our help running the world, all He has asked of us is that we deny ourselves and follow Him. Follow: to come after; move or travel behind. To your best ability, fashion yourself in the way God would have you conduct yourselves, keep your hands still, your mouth shut, and wait it out righteously. Learn to take these muddy opportunities to say, “God thank you for who you are- God thank you for an opportunity to trust you even more. Open my eyes with the mud of this mess, and let me receive your message and it’s blessing- Amen” Let the suffering do it’s work. Learn to endure through your “whatever” so that it may grow your character because a Godly character is a character that is certain of nothing but comfortable in anything. Jesus said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the son of God may be glorified through it.” John 11:4 Not death, but Glory. My eternal life was saved because of trial. There was a time when I was insufficiently sure of my salvation. I sat on Sunday’s pew, said my prayers, and did my daily devotions. There were days that scripture touched me. I’d be moved, then I’d move on. It took my sin breaking my heart; Jesus taking me down to bones to rebuild my life. I wasn’t emotionally moved; I was eternally changed. It is hard to really appreciate the light, until it shows up in complete darkness. I pray that if you’re in the middle of something that feels unfair, you will show gentleness anyway; If you’re in the middle of something painful, you can be thankful anyway; and if you’re in the middle of something dark, you will find enough reason to be the light. God is there, in whatever, He is present. Remind yourself that God is faithful to those that are faithful to Him. A promise was made over 2000 years ago that He would never leave you, He would never forsake you.” Rejoice. I’m anxious about nothing, because God has everything. “Katie, What do you think it means to count it all joy?” I count a piece of joy for knowing that my failures are not my fate. I count a piece of joy for knowing that hurt feelings do not hurt forever. I count a piece of joy for a Father that loves me enough to correct my conduct, even if it compromises my comfort. I count a piece of joy for a dying resentment in me, even if there is never a happy-ending resolution for me. I count a piece of joy for the victory that will be won when every ounce of my troubles, your hurts, and this world’s destruction falls to ashes and Light reigns forever and ever. Amen. Missed y’all,

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