I spent last week in Ethiopia, intending to adopt our 13-year old son, Danny. It was my plan to bring him home with me and it became evident that this was not the plan of God (yet). In the three months leading up to this disappointment, our family experienced other setbacks, including a broken heel that set me back from going full-speed, and a miscarriage of what we thought was an unexpected blessing from the Lord of a new child to our family. My story is not meant to spotlight how tough things have been, rather to show that trials exist in my life as well as yours. When we face trials as Christians, it can become incredibly hard to know what to do to endure them, can’t it?
Throughout my week in Ethiopia, this one verse resonated with me the entire time. In Romans 12:12, Paul says, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Three simple, yet nearly impossible commands to implement, my friends. Go ahead and try. None of these can be done by sheer will-power; believe me I have tried. “Yes babe, I’m going to TRY harder tomorrow to be more patient with the kids…” Trust me trying doesn’t help you achieve these commands.
Paul was addressing a group of Jews living in Rome, who had become Christians, and now were being persuaded, and persecuted by the pagan society around them for their beliefs in Jesus Christ as Lord. In this letter Paul shows how messed up we all are as human beings because of sin, and provides theological truths to the Roman Christians on how they can overcome sin through Jesus alone. Paul was also challenging these folks to not cast judgment upon others and to implement practices in their lives to act like Christians. Verse 12 provides three of these practices, and they relate to dealing with trials.
How to Endure a Trial – Step 1: Rejoice in Hope
Hope is leaning on the promises of God. Hope can be eternal, past, present and future. Every Christian should glance and meditate on Ephesians 1:3-14 every week to be reminded of the eternal hope that we have. No matter what trial we are facing, we can grab a hold of the timeless truths that, as Christians, we have received every spiritual blessing in Christ, we’ve been lavished with God’s grace, and we have been sealed with the guarantee of our inheritance in heaven in the form of the Holy Spirit.
Additionally, we can look back on past times that God has come through for us in a major way. As I started to feel bad for myself about the frustrating events last week with Danny’s adoption, I was reminded of how God has DELIVERED so many times in my life. Whether it was how he brought each of our children into our lives, or rescued a tiny one-year old from certain death in Ethiopia before our eyes, or brought our family into ministry in an unthinkable way, I can always LOOK BACK on how God has provided.
How to Endure a Trial – Step 2: Be Patient in Tribulation
Go ahead and try to be more patient; it just won’t work. Patience just isn’t one of those values that most people esteem to have in our society, either. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit and can only be achieved by abiding in the vine of Jesus Christ. Patience must come from God alone, and we achieve patience by drawing nearer to the Lord.
As I waited for 9 hours with my wife and son, Seby, at the federal officials’ office last week, what would have normally been time pacing around and huffing with discontent if I were in the USA, it was instead not that bad. Why? I think it was because we were ON MISSION to bring home our son. As Ranae and I look back on the experience we’ve had to adopt Danny, we can look ourselves in the mirror and up to God and know that we’ve been faithful. When you are acting in faith, thereby drawing nearer to the Lord, fruit such as being patient is easier to achieve. Try it yourselves…go sit next to a homeless person this week and find out their name and after two hours you will see that the cares of the outside world will go away and your patience will increase.
How to Endure a Trial – Step 3: Be Constant in Prayer
When in a trial, like we have been, you will have a natural desire to stop praying. Or, if you consistently pray to the Lord, you will have a natural desire to change the way you pray. You will probably want to stop asking God for what you want. Why? Because in your mind God has not delivered on what you have been asking Him for, so why ask anymore? At least that was my natural inclination.
As I pondered what it meant to be constant in prayer while in a trial last week and these past few months, I concluded that I needed to recognize two important things. First, God doesn’t want me to give up asking Him for big things! As I go through my A-C-T-S style praying (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) I should double-down on the Supplication part, not give up. God wants me to come to Him even more at this time.
Secondly, God’s delay in answering my request last week brought about a closeness with Him that is now stronger than it was before. This is because I drew nearer to Him more often, more intently, more passionately than before the trial. In other words, this trial has produced in me a greater love of my Lord. I can only conclude that Paul was right when He said in Romans 5:3-4, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.”
So, the next time you face a trial, or if you are in one now, remember what Paul said in Romans 12:12, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”