Many of you are aware that this past week, a fire in northern Alberta swept through the area of Fort McMurray, displacing upwards of 88 000 people. This has brought a lot of “refugees” into our city. This has put a huge burden on the residents and businesses here but all have stepped up to receive and care for those suffering.
I am also grateful to the people of our church who have stepped up to support through an impromptu fundraiser this morning and purchasing many supplies which will go to help those from Fort McMurray through the Canadian Global Relief Agency and the Edmonton Emergency Relief Centre.
As all this was unfolding, I began thinking about what these families must be going through. In a way, I can’t imagine the fear and uncertainty that must be flooding their minds. To go from stability and a regular routine, to chaos and not knowing what tomorrow holds would be unsettling to put it mildly.
Trials are hardships and difficulties over which we have no control. Yet hardships should be expected in this life. Job 14:1 says, “Mortals, born of woman, are of few days and full of trouble.” Peter writes in his first epistle (4:12), “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” So the question is, “How will be deal with the inevitable trials that come our way?”
I know for me, worship is one of the tools that helps me to overcome life’s fiery trials. It helps me to put everything into proper perspective by putting my focus on God rather than my circumstances.
All through the Bible, many of God’s servants had to suffer. Paul and Silas endured perils. They were publicly humiliated by the demon possessed girl, her angry owner, and before the city magistrates in the marketplace. They were put on public display and publicly flogged. They were unjustly imprisoned and shackled. How did they deal with it? Paul and Silas dealt with this mistreatment through worship.
Now worship can take on many forms. In Acts 16:25, it says Paul and Silas, after being thrown in prison, prayed.
Romans 8:18 says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” In other words, it helped them to see their present situation in light of eternity. 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Some people look at prayer as some form of denial. But praying isn’t denying our present reality, rather it is seeing our present reality in light of the eternity God has for us.
Another way they dealt with their situation was they sang. Again, singing is a way of placing our focus on God and His promises. No doubt they would have sung many of the songs we have in our Bibles today from the Book of Psalms. When you read or sing them, you will see a number of them lift up the name of God and in turn lift up our spirits in the midst of difficult times.
I can remember while as a student receiving a call from our school Registrar to inform us that a couple of our most beloved professors died in a car accident the night before. My first response was to go downstairs, pick up my guitar and sing…
With Paul and Silas, the end result was they were delivered, and brought the jailer and others to Christ. Pastor G. Campbell Morgan described the contentment and joy of Paul and Silas in prison as, “the supreme marvel of the Christian consciousness and the Christian triumph.”
When we take our eyes off the temporal and focus on the eternal, God fills us with a joy and peace that “transcends all understanding” will be our reality (Philippians 4:7).
We can also overcome trials through service. One of the most heart warming things through the recent events in Fort McMurray has been the response from many of the Syrian refugees. Here we have seen a people who have suffered greatly, so much to be dispersed to the other side of the world. Yet in this foreign land with little support or finances, they saw the needs and used their minimal resources to help.
Praying, singing and serving are all components of worship. And what worship does is it lifts us from our present troubles and replaces them with peace, joy, and hope. Psalm 73:21-28 says this, “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.”
When it all comes down to it, worship reminds us of the mercy of God. Worship helps us to focus on the power of God. and the opportunity for a miracle. As Job declared in 23:10, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”
If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a multitude of experiences that are not meant for you at all; they are meant to make you useful in his hands.
Some of you may have heard the story of the writer of the great hymn, “It is Well with my Soul.” Horatio G. Spafford was a Christian businessman who endured a lifetime of tragedy and loss. It began with an investment in a business in Chicago which shortly thereafter was destroyed in the Great Fire. A few years later, he lost his four daughters when the Ville de Havre sank. Taking another ship across the sea, he wrote the words to “It Is Well With My Soul” at the spot where his daughter’s died.
Now none of this takes away from the reality of our present situation. Instead, it elevates us to see things from a new and clearer perspective. In a sense, our “eyes are opened ” to the bigger picture; that being God and eternity.
As Christians we often ask why bad things happen. Paul writes in Romans 5:1-5, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
Many of us are going through trials of which we have had little or no control. I want us to be able to withstand the temptation to give up home. By placing our focus on Christ, it helps us to see the big picture. God is at work in and through us and He often does it through the trials we may face in life. In closing, let me leave you with these words: Whatever adversity we may go through today may help us have victory tomorrow.