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Sunday, 20 November 2016

Growing through adversity!

A number of my friends on the social network, Facebook, post many beautiful pictures and video-clips of nature in all of its beauty. However, that same nature wonderfully testifies that adverse conditions are often valuable in the development of some types of trees and other plants.  While fire is one of the greatest enemies of a forest - ask people living in California, and certain parts of Australia, for example - it actually helps certain kinds of seeds to grow. I am reliably informed that the cones of some pine trees do not open until they are touched by the flames.

This can also be true for the disciple of Jesus, whose faith and character are often strengthened by life's trials. Some of the strongest believers of whom I know are in what we refer to as "the persecuted church"; and it was the early church father, Tertullian who, in his book "Apologetics", claimed that "The blood of the martyrs is the seedbed of the church".  Certainly, persecution quickly rids the church of nominality. No-one who does not have a true saving faith in the Lord Jesus is going to admit to being "a Christian" if his/her physical life is at stake. Alternatively, the true disciple looks "... forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Heb 11:10). 

The story is told of a distinguished botanist who was exiled from his native land, but who obtained work as a gardener. On one occasion, in the middle of winter, his employer received a valuable plant but was unfamiliar with its nature and needs. He placed it in the hothouse where, under the glare of the sun, it began to wilt. As it appeared to be dying, the new gardener was instructed to examine it. Quickly identifying its origin, he explained to his employer: "This is an arctic plant, which cannot possibly thrive in this tropical heat."  He then took the plant outside and exposed it to the frost, whilst heaping ice around the pot.  Before long, the plant regained its health, and flourished.

Christian character is developed in many ways. Some believers, when they are placed in the comfortable and sheltered atmosphere of earthly warmth, pleasure, and luxury, begin to lose their spiritual vitality. On the other hand, if they are faced with the icy winds of life, and chilling temptations, they soon revive and renew their strength.  Others find, in the heat of trials, the pressures need to awaken them to a true sense of values. Paul wrote: "... we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us." (Rom 5:3-5). 

It all depends on the root system.  Whether it be a plant, or a believer, it is the life that is in the roots that makes the difference.  So Paul prayed for his brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, in Ephesus: "... that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God." (Eph 3:17-19; emphasis added); while his exhortation to the Colossians was: "As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." (Col 2:6-7; emphasis added). 

So, if you are a disciple of Jesus reading this, don't shrink from the hardships and difficulties of life. By the grace of God, you may gain spiritual stature, even through adversity - and all to the glory of His Name. 

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