Do you remember when you went through one of the most difficult trials of your life? I do. I was doing everything right and no matter what I did nothing would work out for me. This was when I was medically separated from the Marine Corps in 2014. I was going to church with my family, I was giving to the church, and still, nothing was working out for us. The financial blessings that I was praying for did not come, the healing over my wife’s and my illnesses did not come, and everything I prayed to keep was lost. Then, the Lord called me to go to seminary and into ministry. I did not understand why at the time but I did as the Holy Spirit lead me to do and I went to seminary. Throughout my four and a half year journey, I had one thing go wrong after another. It ranged from not having enough funds to get to a new location to people gossiping and speaking poorly of my family and me. I could not understand why all of these things were happening to me because I was truly doing my best to be the best ambassador for Christ that I could be and then I would suffer one shortfall after another. Many times I was overwhelmed and thought about stopping seminary and ministry all together but I remembered that the Lord placed a promise in my heart that this was only a season and the next season would be a season of blessing and abundance.
I had to hold on to God’s promises for me and be patient. I had to suffer like Christ did to understand what humility and love were. I was forced to endure the season I was in to develop my character to be the man God needed me to be. What brought up this memory for me was when I was reading the fourth chapter of the book of 1 Peter. There were three lessons that I learned during my journey that 1 Peter speaks of that changed my life and I would like to share them with you. It is written, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. 14 If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? 19 Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right,” (1 Peter 4:12-19, NASB).
The first lesson that I learned that is beneficial to you is that patience and determination to do what God placed in my heart glorified Him through my suffering. By being dependent on His promises for me and my family, and keeping to what the Holy Spirit revealed to me in His Word, He was glorified. I was staying faithful while others were discouraging me from my walk with the Lord. When this happened, they were blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. This is the same now as it was then. The early Christians that Peter was addressing were being falsely charged with foul crimes and discriminated against, however, they stayed faithful in God’s promises for them. You see, there is no comfort in suffering. When we undergo these seasons of hardship, regardless of what they are, we must stand firm on God’s word and the promises He revealed to us in it. Paul reminds us of this very thing when he states that Christians should bear all things, believe in all things, hope in all things, and to endure all things (1 Corinthians 13:7). The Bible is full of verses that teach us to endure and hold on to God and His word, however, when we are enduring a hardship we tend to forget them and feel like we are being punished. This is why we must stay patient to try to learn what God is teaching us in our seasons of trails and we must be determined to follow Him and Him alone.
My second lesson is that being a Christian is a life full of fighting. Even though we are called to be humble and timid, we are also called to stand firm and be courageous. This is true regardless of the season that we may be in. Our walk is difficult but necessary. We undergo temptations and tribulations both externally and internally. Understanding this is the key to my second lesson. Our outward difficulties will never compare to our internal ones. What we lack in the physical will never compare to how we perceive our circumstances and the fears we keep within. What this means is that there is nothing the world can throw at you that you cannot endure if you stay faithful and cling to the Lord. The moment you forget this is the moment you lose sight of what God is trying to teach you in your season of trails. In the four and a half years of my season of hardships, I learned a lot of things from the Lord because I did not allow myself to be my worst enemy. This is key if you are trying to grow closer to the Holy Spirit in your spiritual walk with Christ. The moment that you think you are defeated, you are defeated. When you get up every day with the perspective that you will learn and grow from the Lord today then you will. Our minds are a powerful thing and if we do not control ourselves from negative thinking we will never see the light in the darkest of situations because we are keeping our head down when it should be looking up to the heavens. With this understanding, focus more on the inward when you are enduring something instead of the people of the circumstances you are in. Develop the inside to combat the outside!
My last lesson is to stay focused on the prize of your salvation during your hardships. If you are doing what God is commanding you to do and you are suffering for being a Christian, find joy in that! You are suffering for Christ as He suffered for us all. When we suffer like Christ we are sharing in His very identity. When this happens we share in His joy, we fellowship with Him, we are glorified by God with Him, and we will reign with Him. God’s word is clear about those who take part in the suffering of Christ and Peter knew this and was telling it to his audience, like I am sharing His message with you all today. Peter presented this truth as a cause for a future hope and I am sharing his message to help you all rejoice while enduring your persecutions. It does not matter what others say or do, what matters is that you stand firm to your faith in Christ and learn what He wants you to learn while undergoing your trails for Him. At the end of the day, why would you allow someone that does not share His Spirit influences your walk with the Lord?
I pray that these three lessons that took me over four years to learn help encourage you all here today to endure your difficult circumstances and to keep your head up and focused on Jesus Christ. When I was going through my difficulties I had my wife lifting me up and prayer and encouraging me to continue the calling the Lord called me to walk and here and now, I am doing the same for you all. Please remember that we will face hard times and that is for certain, however, what is also certain is the truth of every promise that God has revealed to us in His word. If you feel unloved, remember that He gave His only begotten Son for you because He loves you that much. When you feel like you lack in anything, remember that you stand firm in your salvation in His son Jesus Christ. If you feel like you cannot endure life anymore, remember that you are loved so much that He sent you a Special Helper! You see, regardless of what you feel that you lack, you already have what you need to prosper. You simply have to walk in that truth and find joy in understanding it. If you are having trouble with this in your trails, maybe the Lord is trying to have you learn patience and humility. Either way, you can stand firm in God’s promises for you because they will come true.
After my four and a half year character-building journey, the Lord took me from having nothing without Him to having everything in Him. I went from having the fear that I could not feed my children because I did not have enough money for groceries to taking them around the world to see His work in me. I went from doubting myself and every circumstance I was in as a punishment to finding a lesson to help me grow closure to the Lord. If I can do this, I know that you can do the same as well. So please do not give up hope. Endure and grow! Be patient and you will see God’s promises overflow in and around you. Learning and applying the three lessons I shared with you all today will only help you realize this truth a little bit sooner. Also, remember that you are never alone!