April 24, 2016
They say every rose has its thorn... Roses are often regarded as the most beautiful of flowers, but their stems are indeed covered with sharp thorns. And the most beautiful of human 'flowers' are often covered with thorns as well. While it is not the thorns themselves that are beautiful, the painful moments in our life, the trials that result in scars, wrinkles, and gray hairs - these are what make our spirits blossom into a thing of beauty.
Yet no one likes to have trials come their way. When they do, we often question God. Why me? What have I done to deserve this? This is how Job felt. Three of his friends tried to tell him it was because he wasn't living up to God's standards, but Job knew that wasn't true. Even when his wife thought he ought to just curse God and die because of all of the bad things that God let happen to him, he would not. He said to her, "You talk like a foolish woman. Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?" (Job 2:10) And the Bible says that even in his distress, he said nothing wrong. Job lost all of his possessions, his family, and his health. It was not because he was being punished in any way. God knew that Job would endure this test, that it would not cause him to lose faith. Yes, there were days that Job thought he would have been better off if he had never even been born. And that is perfectly understandable in light of all he suffered. It is not a sin to experience grief. But he never gave up on God. And God rewarded him for his faithfulness in the end, by giving him back double for all that he lost. Satan may hope that the trials in your life would destroy your faith, but God intends them only to test and strengthen it. And yet not all trials are a test. Let us move on to our next example...
Picture our Lord Jesus with a crown of thorns on His precious head. The thorns digging into the tender flesh of His scalp, piercing it, and blood saturating his hair and oozing down His holy face, which radiated the pain He felt as He was being mocked as the King of the Jews. Little did they know that He was suffering such intense physical and spiritual agony for them, to redeem them, and that He would indeed be their true king throughout eternity. Even before his trial, flogging, and crucifixion, Jesus was tested beyond what any normal human could have possibly borne. He asked His Father if it was possible for Him to not have to go through what He knew was coming. But He also prayed, "Yet not my will, but Yours be done." (Luke 22:42) And it was His Father's will that He suffer and die - not as a test for Jesus - but in order to redeem mankind, so that all who would put their faith in His Son and His willing sacrifice, would be cleansed of the sin that would prevent their entry into heaven. So perhaps some of the trials in our own lives could be for the benefit of someone else. Could any of the trials currently in your life be the Lord asking you to make a personal sacrifice that would be the means God uses to bless someone else?
And our third example is the Apostle Paul. He had what the Bible calls a 'thorn in his flesh' (2 Corinthians 12:7). This thorn was a messenger of Satan, and Paul prayed three times that the Lord would remove it. But God did not. Why? Paul was given a great number revelations and visions from God. It would have been very easy for these to 'go to his head' and keep him from remaining humble. We know that Satan loves to remind us of how we have messed up in the past. And Paul's past was darker than most. He vehemently opposed Christianity before that pivotal journey to Damascus when He met Jesus. He had Christians killed for their faith. And no doubt his messenger from Satan never let him forget it as much as he would have liked to. Don't we all have things in our past that we would like to forget? Things we are ashamed of, that we would like to bury forever. And yet no matter how close our walk with God might be now, we need to remember that we are only saved by grace. That without the intervention of the Holy Spirit working in our hearts, reminding us that Jesus loved us even while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8), we too might be tempted to become puffed up with pride. So sometimes our trials are sent to keep us from sin, and to help us mature in our faith. Is there something in your life that God might be using to do this? It might not be a remembrance of something in your past, but could be anything that keeps you from relying on your own power, and relying on God instead. Just as no child likes to be disciplined or receive instruction, we parents know it is for their own good. We do it because we love them. And it is the same with God.
Remember, you are a child of God. He loves you. He sends trials in your life for a variety of reasons, but it is always out of love. And He will not only go through them with you, but He will reward you for your faithfulness. So as hard as it may seem at the time to do so, thank the Lord for the thorns in your life. Because they are a part of the beautiful spirit He is developing in you! Amen.
Austin handed out roses to the congregation...