We have failed to prepare you for the reality of a real walk with God.
Ellis Washington is an Adjunct Professor at the National Paralegal College where he teaches Constitutional Law, Legal Ethics, Administrative Law, Contracts, Advanced Legal Research & Writing. He penned an interesting “conversation” between Socrates, Bishop T. D. Jakes, Abraham the Patriarch and his son Isaac. The conversation was based on the necessity that if someone’s faith is true, then it must be able to “stand trial.” (not an unusual concept for a lawyer).
The conversation opens up with the premise that faith does not exempt you from tragedy and adversity. God will not take you out the fire, but he will be the thermostat in the furnace. The Bishop put it this way:
“Some people are struck with awe-stricken amazement to find out that after they’ve named and claimed, and believed and declared, and read all the books and listened to all the tapes and went to all the workshops and watched all the TED Talks, there are still troubles that persist in their life.”
I told the story once about a karate camp that I attended. At the camp, a brown belt whom I really admired, was really smacking me around all week. At some point, I had had enough and “got in to his grill and said,”
What’s your problem. You’re not smacking around the other purple belts. Why are you hammering me so much?”
He replied, “Because God expects more from His gifted children.”
My response was, “Ok, I get it. Bring it on!”
You will never know that you have faith until you’re in a good fight. Real faith is proven in the furnace of affliction, in the time of adversity, and we will know that you believed God because you went through some things and maintained your integrity while you persevered. Others will see that – Christ will put them in the pathway of your life and they will want to know your story. That’s why God let you go through those hard times in the first place. Through your story and through your experience, you were meant to lead others to Christ so that Christ can lead them out of the fire they find themselves in.
Why is Christianity being persecuted on such a wide scale today? Why is the Church so unpopular? Why do younger and youngish people want nothing to do with “organized religion?” Bishop T.D. Jakes said, “I believe that God in his omniscient wisdom knew that we were going to face a generation of people who did not expect to go through anything. Look at 1 Peter 4:12-19, not only does Peter speak about the fiery trials, but he also speaks about the attitude of the persons who have not prepared themselves to go through the struggle:
Dear friends, do not be surprised by the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. Instead, because you are participating in the sufferings of the Messiah, keep on rejoicing, so that you may be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.
G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” So don’t think it strange when things happen to you, because the truth of the matter is – every man, every woman, every boy, every girl will go through a time when your faith must stand trial! In the midst of adversity, as long as you can say, “When this is all over, I’m coming back again. No Devil in Hell can destroy me. I’m coming out of this because, just like Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Daniel in the midst of the fire, I know who’s down there in in the fire with me.” (Bishop Noel Jones, 1996 Sermon – Your faith must stand trial)
When you are in the midst of trial, God will send people to you. They will be people you want to believe and people you want to trust. Once you are out of the fire, you will become that person for someone else. God will send others to you – people God wants you to lead, people who will want to follow you to find out how to get out of the fire.
Lead them to Christ. Let Christ lead them out of the fire.
Audio version of the homily is here: