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During long seasons of trials, we can become more focused on the disappointment in our lives than the Christ who reigns supreme over our lives. Here are three illustrations of how our trials can begin to control our thoughts and responses. In each one, the person wants a good thing to happen—some things we all desire because they are good.
The context for these three relationship scenarios is born out of a study from Hebrews 3:1-6, where the writer is teaching his audience how Jesus is the only hope who will give us strength through personal trials and disappointments. The writer wants us to consider something profound.
Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession. . . . but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope (Hebrews 3:1, 6).
The Hebrew writer appeals to his audience to hold on to Jesus, which they can do by situating their confidence and boasting in Him rather than fixating on their problems. He knows that the person they hold on to during disappointing times will determine how they work through those times.
His desire is for them to have complete confidence in Christ, who will see them through their trials. The big idea is clear: if your confidence and boasting are in something that can never crumble, you’re secure and full of hope. Your confidence and boasting are only as strong as the person or thing you’ve placed your trust in, which you see in the above scenarios with the wife, man, and teen.
These three individuals have too much expectant confidence and hopeful joy in imperfect people who can fail them. Their temptation is an easy trap for any of us. Though all three of them are Christians, they have lost sight of their primary hope and boast in Christ while looking toward others to make them happy.
Can you see the weakness in their practical theology? I have seen myself in all three of these situations. The circumstances in these people’s lives have more control over them than the Lord does, which is the point the Hebrew writer was trying to make to his audience. Show me a person who has lost hope, and I’ll show you a person who has misplaced affections.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose [confidence] is the LORD (Jeremiah 17:7).
When the weight of our problems outweighs the potency of the gospel, we are not far from discouragement, anger, and despair. Diminished boasting in the Lord reveals a shaken confidence. A rattled confidence is the cue for the Lord to bring situations in our lives to help us see our functional theological weaknesses, designed to propel us to trust Him.
Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake, I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him (John 11:14-15).
A thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited (2 Corinthians 12:7b).
If the weight of your problems causes you to lose your grip on Christ, my appeal would be for you to consider how the Lord may be in your troubles—teaching you how to trust Him exclusively. You do have a choice, you know? You can complain about your circumstances, or you can learn how to boast in the Lord. The appeal from God’s Word would be for you to see your harassments as a sign from the Lord to boast in Him.
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9b).
God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13b).
Here are some key questions to ask when you are going through problems. How you respond to life’s trials will quickly tell you what you are considering. The Hebrew audience was going through significant difficulties. These trials were tempting them to walk away from Christianity.
The author tried to refocus the gaze of their hearts because he knew what the heart considered had a direct and immediate impact on their behavior. He did not want them to take their eyes away from Jesus because if Christ is your primary consideration, you will be okay when disappointment comes.
If your heart does not dial directly into the Savior, you will lose your confidence, and your boasting in the Lord will turn to grumbling about your circumstances. But if Jesus is in your sight-lines, you are considering the right thing—the right person.
The only way we will stay in a defeated state is by taking our eyes off Christ and setting them on something else (Hebrews 12:2). Part of your consideration must be your interpretation and expectation regarding God’s love for you. John thought about this when he was appealing to his readers to reflect on the God they served.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are (1 John 3:1).
John asked his audience to consider the kind of love God had for them. Hopefully, as you think about the love of God, it will raise a few questions. When most of us consider the love of God, we see His love through the lens of things going according to our expectations. It is a rose-colored love.
Favorable outcomes are our most common way of thinking about the love of God. When we sing about God being good to us, few if any think about how His goodness and love sometimes come through the trials He allows in our lives. Do you? Do you see the love of God in your adversity?
Though reasonable Christians would disagree with the travesties of the prosperity gospel, we can still have a worldview shaped by prosperity thinking. If you look at your troubles as though some strange thing has happened to you, your mind has taken the wrong shape because of a heart motivated by wrong things. Fiery trials are part of God’s sovereign care in our lives.
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice (boast) insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:12-13).
When these strange things happen, the Lord wants you to see Jesus—to consider Him, behold Him, and have your primary focus on Him. If you do, you have a full view of God’s love and purposes in your life. What this boils down to is a confidence lesson. Where do you place your confidence in times of trouble?
Your confidence will impact how you navigate through the trials of life. This perspective makes placing your confidence in the right person paramount. Listen to the faith and power of Paul’s words as he talked about his troubles and God’s enabling power in their lives.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
We all waver and fall when trouble comes. Fallen people falling is part of being fallen people. This condition is why Christ came—to create us in a new way. We must see our wavering and falls as signs that point us to misplaced confidence, which is our cue to recalibrate our confidence in the Lord.
The words from our mouths and the meditations of our hearts will be acceptable (Psalm 19:14) when God is managing us. We would find unusual strength no matter what trial was shaping our lives. Notice how the Psalmist talked about this worldview. He is not trusting in what a horse or man can do but rests in the pleasure of God’s steadfast love.
His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love (Psalm 147:10-11).
This kind of person is courageous in the fire of adversity. A synonym for confidence in Hebrews 3:6 is courage. His confidence in Jesus will give him courage for the adversity the Lord has permitted. You’ll see this mostly in his attitude. You’ll perceive his confidence by his word choices. It’s like a young child who finds security in his parents. He feels safe and secure because he knows his parents will take care of him.
He knows his parents love him. His confidence and courage are built upon and strengthened by what he considers his parents to be. As spiritual children of God Almighty, we should have great confidence and courage because of how we consider Him. We should easily make our boast in Him, even in our trials, because we know nothing will ultimately overcome us as children of God.
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).
The words of Christ feel warm and hopeful when we read them, but when you’re going through the trial of your life, it’s like they don’t apply. But they do. My goal here is not to criticize you, make you feel guilty, or add more pressure to your current struggles.
But it behooves us to speak truth to our souls, especially when we are heading downhill or already stuck in the slough of despond. Will you take some time to think through these questions and possibly reach out to a friend who is willing to hear you out and offer help?
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