November 28, 2010
Tests and Opportunities
“. . . we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer” (2 Thessalonians 1:4,5).
Seekers of God can hardly do without qualities like patience, endurance, and fortitude. That is why periods of persecution have tended to separate the true seekers from the merely curious. Faith either learns how to deal with difficulty or it dies a miserable death. The Christian has no greater practical need than to learn how to handle hardship successfully.
When there is something that we must endure, we are faced with a crisis: do we or do we not have the character to meet the difficulty? But the way in which we endure difficulty is every bit as important as the question of whether or not we’ll endure it. We are called upon not only to bear our burdens, but also to bear them with a Christ‑like spirit. We must resist bitterness and resentment and maintain gratitude and reverence. Deciding which spirit we’ll have as we tackle our problems is one of life’s key decisions.
Motivational speakers have often pointed out to us the link in the Chinese language between crisis and opportunity. Denis Waitley puts it this way: “The Chinese symbols for crisis are identical to those for the word opportunity. Literally translated it reads, ‘Crisis is an opportunity riding the dangerous wind.’” Situations that we see as merely “dangerous” (in other words, “difficult”) should often be welcomed as occasions for growth and service. If we take all the risk out of life, we also take out the opportunity. The course of least resistance leads only one direction: downhill.
When we pillow our heads at night, we need to have things that give us peace. Many such things are available, but one of the best is the simple peace of knowing that we’ve done things that day that were not easy for us to do. If we can see ourselves as people who are learning little by little to master the hard parts of life, we will live with a greater confidence and be able to serve those around us more helpfully. The ancient adage is true which tells us, ”A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”
"The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests” (Epicurus).