-for Casey Ingold’s Sermon, November 13th, 2011, Covenant Baptist Church
Living Thankfully: Part II
There is a concept that every Christian must understand. Many believers go through their lives confused, with a shallow faith in God because they don’t understand this simple, but profound fact. And here it is:
God’s priority for your life is NOT that you be happy. God’s priority for your life is that you become conformed to the image of Jesus.
Understanding and applying this truth will make the difference between going through life confused, unthankful, and angry with God, and living a life in which every situation, good and bad, wonderful or tragic, can be recognized as something God will use to bring about His greatest desire (Christ-likeness) in your very soul and spirit.
This morning, Casey spoke on Romans 8:28 and explained that we can trust that God is always at work in every situation, bringing about our good. But this good is not our happiness. If we look at Romans 8:29 we see the good that God is working in our lives:
For those He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren.
God is all about conforming us to the image of Jesus. That is the good toward which He is working. So as we live our lives, we can know that God is working everything, using every situation, relationship, trial, and joy, to transform our character and to conform us to the image of Jesus. He is making us into “little Christs” who will bring Him honor and glory for all eternity. Because of this, we can be thankful for everything that happens in our lives. We know it is all part of God’s plan.
This is all easy to say, but it also begs the question, “How does suffering bring about this conformity to Christ?”
Scripture makes it clear that suffering is part of God’s process of refinement. The book of 1 Peter was written to Christians who were in the midst of great persecution and suffering. They lived in a culture so hostile to the name of Christ that being a Christian could result in imprisonment or even death. Peter tells these believers that they have been born again to a living hope and are protected by God for a salvation “ready to be revealed in the last time.” In 1 Peter 1:6-7 he states:
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Here we see that the trials had a purpose. Just as gold is refined by fire, so their faith was refined by the fire of suffering. It was to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus.
James also speaks of this refining process in James 1:2-4. We are told to consider it all joy when we encounter various trials. We can do this because we know that the testing will produce endurance, or steadfastness. We are told to “let endurance have its perfect result or work, so that you may become perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Trials have a purpose – to make us perfect and complete. In other words, mature or more like Jesus.
Going Deeper ******************************
As Christians, we also identify with Jesus through suffering. In Romans 8:16-17, Paul says,
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
In Romans 8:18, Paul tells us “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” We can know that our sufferings and trials here are not meaningless events in a meaningless universe. Jesus Himself is the example of suffering and we are called to follow in His footsteps. (Ephesians 5:1-2). And we know that whatever sufferings may come our way in this life, they are nothing compared to the glory that will be ours when we stand before God, seeing Jesus face to face. “We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” 1 John 3:2b