In my last blog I focused on how we are held securely by God even when walking the scary high ropes courses of life. I have been thinking more about how our faith can grow in times of shaking that we all face – especially in an End Time context, when life on earth becomes more turbulent. Two lessons from the bible come to mind.
- Keep your heart steady through the shaking. In Luke’s gospel Jesus speaks of the fear people will face and the distractions they will use as coping mechanisms during the Tribulation shaking:
‘Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.’ (Luke 21v34-36).
The phrase ‘to escape’ doesn’t mean to avoid trouble; no it literally means to be kept safe from the worst of the shaking and global turmoil. Jesus calls for a steady and prayerful heart, where we are not sunk or demolished by the shaking of things we trust in life. Jesus wants to hold us steady and strong whatever troubles come in life, and enable us to stand well through End Time turmoil. The presence of Jesus mitigates the worst that life throws at us, because he is with us and his grace strengthens and supports us. The ‘standing before the Son of Man’ refers to a standing to receive a reward for our faith, as one might receive a commendation for work well done or a life well lived.
2. Allow God to refine you in the midst of the shaking. In the last book of the Old Testament, the prophet Malachi speaks of the ‘Day of His Coming’, an eschatological phrase about the ministry of the Messiah. It refers to Jesus’ actions both in his first coming and also in his second coming:
‘But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire or a launderer’s soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver.’ (Malachi 3v2&3).
Jesus’ earthly ministry acted as a time of refining of faith for the faithful in Israel. In this prophecy which is pregnant with End Time symbolism, there remains yet a more comprehensive time of refining in the days before he returns in glory. No-one knows the precise ways that shaking will increase in coming years. Much of it will be due to human sin and rise of evil. Yet we know that God will use such times of shaking to refine and purify his people. Such refining of faith will be costly but precious.
The image in Malachi here is one a metal worker sitting in front of a fire and refining an impure metal to purify it. In ancient times you would use a process of heating and blowing air across metal to extract the pure and precious silver. An interesting analogy for tests of faith, I think. Sometimes we feel bad about the weakness that rises to the surface of our lives when we undergo suffering or trouble. We wish that fears or bitterness or lack of faith were not revealed, but they are. However the good news is that God is using trouble (akin to heat or strong wind of adversity) to skim off the weak areas of character or emotional issues. His bigger purpose is that the true and precious quality of our faith will emerge from the fire. So when shaking comes, there may well be a godly refining we can yield to, that will purify our faith.
So what is the application for us in the midst of this pandemic crisis? Well, if you read the gospels, this is not the crisis to end all crises. It may feel like that right now, but there is coming a time of Tribulation, which will be multi-layered and more sustained. Yet Jesus tells us that not even the worst turmoil and global shaking needs to shipwreck our faith. We can ask him to keep our hearts steady and strong and be those who receive his commendation for our faith and perseverance at the end. And when we are undergoing trouble or intense pressure on our faith, don’t be discouraged if fears or weakness rise to the surface. Instead ask the Lord to keep purifying you so that your faith emerges as precious silver to present to him. God is extracting something wonderful from you life through all the test that come your way, and even this season of difficulty or illness can be used by him to make your life more beautiful and your testimony more powerful.
God bless you.