Updated: Oct 1, 2020
At times when someone makes the decision to follow Christ, he expects some sort of instantaneous change, as if the moment he emerges from the baptismal waters all his problems and difficulties will have dissipated. It doesn’t work like that, I’m afraid. Your problems and struggles don’t just magically disappear, but there is a new perspective, a feeling of support and strength, that lets you know that you no longer have to face those problems alone.
Jesus told his followers in John 14:16-17 that He would ask the Father to send them “another Helper.” That helper is the Holy Spirit of God who would “dwell with them and be with them.” The word translated as “helper” in this verse and again in verse 26 in the original text meant “counselor” or “instructor.” When you become a follower of Christ, you receive help, assistance, and counsel from God’s own Spirit, which can enable you to overcome any temptation or difficulty that you face. That doesn’t mean the problem will necessarily just go away, but God will help you to handle it.
Recently, I found a devotional book entitled Daily Strength for the Battle: Training for Spiritual Excellence, written by a retired Army officer named Scott McChrystal. On day one, “Overcoming the Giants in Your Life,” McChrystal gave the example of a man who’d lost both his legs. He marveled at the man’s strength and ingenuity at dealing with his handicap, and not just living with it, but living victoriously. He roofed his own house. He built strength in his arms so that he could climb the stairs in his home by walking up them on his hands. He didn’t allow his injury to make him bitter or helpless, and he expressed great joy and faith in God in giving him the tools to overcome it. McChrystal compared such trials to the Philistine giant that young David killed in 1 Samuel 17. David wasn’t even a full-grown man, but he stood before the Philistine, a seven-foot-tall, trained warrior, and declared that God would deliver the Philistine into his hand – and He did. It wasn’t that David was stronger or better trained than the other men in Israel’s army. He just had more faith, and he gave credit where credit was due. David didn’t say he would beat the Philistine. He said God would.
The apostle Paul relates in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 that he had a “thorn in the flesh” that he’d prayed for God to remove. (There are theories as to the nature of the problem, but no one knows precisely what the “thorn” was.) Paul didn’t expand on his problem because the point of the passage wasn’t the nature of the issue but God’s answer to his prayer. He said God’s response was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” In verse 10, Paul writes, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
God wants us to rely on Him to get through the trials of life. Jesus tells us in the latter part of John 16:33 that, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Nowhere in scripture are we promised a life without trouble, but we are consistently promised help. Some of my favorite verses in the Bible are in Psalm 18. It’s where I turn whenever I feel troubled. Verses 1 and 2 read, “I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”
Even Christ didn’t have an easy life on earth. He was tempted, maligned, interrogated, pursued, and threatened repeatedly, until finally being beaten and crucified. If you profess Jesus as your savior, people might speak ill of you. People who you thought were friends could abandon you, and your own family may turn against you. We have no reason to expect to have it any easier than our Lord did, but another favorite chapter of mine, Romans 8, ends with this, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
How will you know the strength and endurance of your faith if everything is easy? James 1:2 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” It’s like exercising a muscle - your faith muscle. With every problem that we face down through prayer and reliance on God, the stronger our faith and trust get. As McChrystal wrote in the introduction to his devotional book, “…growth in the Christian life doesn’t happen by accident, but rather by diligence and effort in seeking God.”
For a more in-depth study of the Holy Spirit’s role in the life of the believer, I highly recommend the book Holy Spirit Power by Charles Spurgeon. Spurgeon was a 19th century British preacher and theologian who stood staunchly on his principles and never backed down from Biblical truth for the sake of popularity. His little book is an uplifting resource, and he consistently references Scripture.
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