Richard Foster was coming to town! He was the featured speaker at a Friday-Saturday seminar, and I was excited to go! I had read a couple of Foster‘s books on the spiritual life in Christ. They helped me a lot in my journey with Jesus. I had also subscribed to his monthly publication. In it he shared writings about the Christian life from Christians throughout the centuries of Church history.
In the opening Friday evening session, he began by saying “there are three things which are vital for spiritual growth: God’s word, God’s Holy Spirit, and …” At that point, my mind was guessing at item number three. Prayer? Vibrant Church engagement? Telling other about Jesus? His answer? “Trials.” I did not expect that! In fact, it made such an impact upon me that I remember it to this day, some 25 years later.
Foster was pointing out what God says clearly in the Bible: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). There it is! Troubles, hardships, difficulties … whatever we want to call them … are necessary to grow up in Jesus Christ.
We have all shared in the “trial” of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. Besides COVID, most of us have had our own troubles and difficulties. As Sue Ann and I have been walking together through the very difficult final months of 2020, we have seen, painfully yet gratefully, that God is using our trials to mature us in Christ. He is refining us, fashioning us to be more like His Son, our blessed Savior Jesus Christ.
As you find yourself right at the beginning of the new year, please realize that a magic line does not exist between December 31, 2020 and January 1, 2021. If the pandemic ends in 2021, we will surely praise God! But your personal crucible may still remain fiery hot.
As believers in Jesus, let’s hold fast, with confidence, to the good Word of God! God assures us that He is using our trials to make us like Jesus. Thank you, Lord!