How often do we got through trials and difficulties and question why things happen the way they do? We ask God why He puts us through certain circumstances and frequently complain about what life brings our way. At least I know I do. I've actually been thinking over the past couple days about a couple things in life right now and wondering why God has brought these trials into my life and what He is going to accomplish through them, though I may not understand why, other than for His glory, I do know that all things happen for a reason. Well, today, as I was still pondering some things in my mind, I found myself at Church hearing the exact answers to my questions. Hearing God's reassurances of love and comfort, knowing that He holds everything in His hands. The text was Philippians 2:13-16 which says:
"(13)for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (14)Do all things without complaining and disputing, (15)that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (16)holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in cain or labored in vain."
Pastor Brainerd did a fabulous job of describing God's "river of providence" and I'm sure I can't explain it like he did, but the whole idea that through all of life we are swimming, so to speak, in a river. I think we would all agree that God is in control of life. Do we really stop to think exactly what that means though? To realize that every situation, every person that crosses our path, every pleasure, every season of life, yes, even every trial, is part of God's sovereign plan. Every one of those things is placed in our life for a reason, as we see in verse 13. We may be able to see the reason, but more often than not, I find, we don't understand it all. We may never know, this side of heaven, why certain rocks in the river are where they are, but we can rest in the knowledge that He has a plan. God directs everything and He is in control of every twist and turn, every spot of white water, every rock. He places them there, what seems maybe randomly to us, but there is nothing random about it in God's eyes.
The human tendency, when we are tossed back in forth in the white water, never seeming to get out of the rapids, is to complain, to be discontent, to wish we were somewhere else. Verse 14 of Philippians chapter 2, however, says to do "all things without complaining or disputing," not just do the thing we enjoy without complaining. Just like submission is not just being cheerful when you have to do things that you enjoy, it's being joyful to do the things you don't particularly want to do.To complain and say we wish things in life were different than they are, is to shake our fist in God's face and tell Him He doesn't know what He's doing. I don't know about you, but I never want to be caught doing that. I don't enjoy telling people their wrong, I don't really have a lot of occasions when that is necessary, but if I ever do, it's extremely hard to do so and I'd much rather avoid it. So to think about the fact that with my complaining or ingratitude for the situations I am placed in, I'm telling God He's wrong! that my friends, is eye opening! May I never be caught complaining again! (I don't think that will happen, but I'm trying). =)
God doesn't just put us through difficulties just for the fun of it or sit back and watch us drown in the water. God is doing a great work in our lives and often we don't, or cannot, fully understand why, like I said earlier. James 1:2-4 talks about this very thing:
"(2)My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, (3)knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (4)But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing."
Also Romans 5:3-4 which says:
"And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; (4)and perseverance, character; and character hope."
The purpose of the river of providence is all for God's glory and to make us more like Christ. It is all a part of the sanctification process; becoming more like Christ. My pastor used a really neat analogy, one that I could really relate to, to illustrate how we identify with Christ. Just like adopted children do not usually physically look like their family, the are often unmistakably identified as a part of their family. They are alike because they have been through the same experiences, and situations, have a similar sense of humor, etc., so we should resemble Christ. Though we do not physically look like Christ, we ought to be unmistakably identified as children of our Father.
Are you contentedly swimming in the river of God's providence, or you wishing you could get out, dry off, and find a different river?