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Friday, 30 July 2010

The testing of faith.

James writes : "Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." (James 1:2-4; NLT); and someone, somewhere, has suggested that "a faith untested is no faith at all"!

Such thoughts have been very much in my mind since yesterday when, having travelled through to Audincourt - where our Vectra is sitting in the compound of the Opel dealership - I was informed that, due to a combination of uncertainty as to whether or not the warranty will cover the required work, and the forthcoming holiday period when, apparently, the garage closes down, the car won't even be looked at until about Sept.1st! The upshot of all of that is that my dear wife is flying home on August 8th and I am remaining in L'Isle-sur-le-Doubs until the car is ready, and I can bring both it and the caravan home! This will be, by far, the longest single period of time for which we have been seperated in our married life - and means that we won't even be together for our Ruby anniversary on Sept. 4th! :-(

So the 'natural' question, for a believer, is "Why, Lord?" The first answer might well be that it's to teach me a lesson about procrastination! Part of our problem is that I kept putting off renewing the European breakdown cover for the car! Well, it was only 19 months old - what could possibly go wrong?! The words "Once bitten, twice shy" are also much in my mind!

But perhaps it's also to do with those words of James. Perhaps it's to do with something that the Lord wants to teach one, or both, of us. It would, of course, be easy to just decide that because our prayers that the situation would be fully sorted out, quickly and easily, haven't received a positive answer, that there isn't much point in continuing this Christian faith stuff! But why should we assume that our faith is always going to be easy? Why should only those in other parts of the world be persecuted, and imprisoned, and tortured, and even killed for the sake of the Lord Jesus?

On July 15, Pastor Artur Suleimanov was shot to death by a gunman as he was leaving the Hosanna House of Prayer in Makhachkala, Dagestan, according to VOM Canada and Barnabas Fund. Dagestan is a federal republic of Russia in the North Caucasus region. Pastor Suleimanov was known as a dynamic leader of one of the largest Protestant churches in Russia. "Pastor Suleimanov was a wonderful Christian brother, and his shocking death is a devastating loss for the Dagestan church," a co-ordinator with Barnabas Fund said. "He and the Hosanna House of Prayer church were very active in ministry and outreach in particular. We see his murder as an attempt to put further pressure on Christian converts in Dagestan." Pastor Suleimanov is survived by his wife and five children.

We pray for Pastor Suleimanov's family, and congregation, as they grieve over his death. We pray that God will touch the heart of Pastor Suleimanov's murderer. We pray that Christians in Russia will be emboldened to spread the gospel despite opposition.

And we remember those other words of Scripture: "Consider Him Who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons? - 'My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by Him. For the Lord disciplines him whom He loves, and chastises every son whom He receives'." (Heb 12:3-6; RSV).

Yes, our faith may be being tested - but even the test is easy compared to what others experience. May our faith stand up as well to our little test, as does the faith of brothers and sisters in Christ, in so many other parts of the world, in testing that we can't even begin to imagine.

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