In Sunday School we’re learning about Gentiles in a Jewish Timeline –like, what God’s been doing in Gentiles throughout history. One of the first points made was one that I’m always glad to be reminded of.
God’s work in the Israelites displayed His power to the rest of the world. God always wanted the whole world to know Him and to come to Him. He still does.
I don’t think that necessarily made the Israelites happy while the seven plagues were tearing apart the world they knew. Imagine their response to some challenges being drawn out so that the Egyptians would witness God’s glory: “the Egyptians?? But this is about our story, our freedom!”
We know Jonah wasn’t all that thrilled with God’s love and concern for others. He especially wasn’t pleased with his own role in sharing God’s love (i.e. Ninevah). Were his trials worth it to share the Gospel with those undeserving people? Frankly, Jonah didn’t really think so. He wished he was dead. He was angry. His story wasn’t just about him.
That’s a natural part of our sin nature.
Like Jonah, we know that God is a:
“gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love.”
When His grace and compassion on others (especially those we don’t value) is played out through us, our struggles hardly seem so worthwhile.
Our selfishness tells us that everything that happens in our own lives, good or bad, is to be about us in some way. When we take on trials of faith, the question we ask is “Lord, what are you doing?” What we mean is “Lord, what are you doing for me in this?”
We’re so egoistic that even in our humility, accepting difficulties with faith, the “purposes” we look for in the challenges must in some way be about God improving our own stories.
Poor health is acceptable if it teaches us dependency. Challenging job situations are from the Lord, we suppose, so that He can grow us in certain ways.
None of this is necessarily incorrect. God does use our trials to grow us and teach us about Him. The trouble is simply how “me-focused” we are even in our value judgments about the life of faith.
The truth is that our trials aren’t just about our own spiritual growth- they are about God’s power being displayed to others, too. Our situations might not be resolved in the way we’d prefer (see the Israelites again) because God is instead going to:
“show (His) power that (His) name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”
The Gospel isn’t just for you or I. Our stories, as a part of God’s story, aren’t written just for us.
The Bible characters we look to as examples knew this: their stories, messy and neat, were lived out for the glory of God –the glory of God that God wants everyone to witness.
Our challenges and our joys are gifts the Lord gives to us. But they are also gifts He uses to give others an opportunity to be drawn to Him. That –that eternal investment- is always worth it.
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