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June 06, 2012

Trials, Trust, and Growing Christlike Character

Angie (Alcorn) StumpBecause of my daughter Angie’s pending surgery and diagnosis, and because the subjects of trust and trials are all pertinent in my heart right now, I wanted to share some thoughts about how the Lord uses pain and suffering in our lives.

In this four-minute video, made before we knew of Angie’s health issues, I talk about how God really does work all things together for our good:

I was struck by what Angie wrote in a recent update: “In all honesty, my biggest prayer is for whatever needs to happen for me to love Jesus more and bring more glory to His name. If I ‘beat’ this but lose that focus, in the long run I will have lost.”

Of course we are still praying for Angela’s healing. But my friends David and Nancy Guthrie once told me, “It troubles us that the church’s one response to suffering is to pray that it will be taken away. Nobody’s first prayer is ‘Use this to help us become Christlike.’”

Paul, in contrast, wrote, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10–11). God uses suffering as an instrument to make us better.

Randy with Karina and AngelaJames 1:2-3 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” Like James, Paul said, “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance” (Romans 5:3). Paul and James both claim we should rejoice in suffering because of what it produces: perseverance.

Adversity itself doesn’t cause our joy. Rather, our joy comes in the expectation of adversity’s by-product, the development of godly character. God doesn’t ask us to cheer because we lose our job, or a loved one contracts cancer, or a child has an incurable birth defect. He tells us to rejoice because he will produce in us something money can’t buy and ease will never produce—the precious quality of Christ-exalting perseverance.

Persevering is holding steady to a belief or course of action. It’s steadfastness in completing a commitment. Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples” (John 8:31). At the end of his life, Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness” (2 Timothy 4:7–8).

God gives each of us a race to run. To finish well we must develop perseverance. The Christian life is not a hundred-meter dash, but a marathon. Those who lack patience, endurance, and discipline will drop out of the race. God uses our trials to produce in us the persevering character that honors Him and prepares us to serve Him and touch the lives of others, for His glory.

We rejoice in suffering in the same way that Olympic athletes rejoice in their workouts—not because we find them easy, but because we know they will one day produce great reward.

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Update on Achu

Achu

Here’s the latest picture of Achu, the Sudanese girl with the horrific leg wound that EPM had the privilege of helping by covering her medical expenses. (See my original post.) What a sweetheart! The picture of her leg shows that the wound is healing very nicely and has no sign of infection. Thanks to those of you who have prayed for this dear girl. 

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