By Daniel Henderson
This week, in the United States, we celebrate Independence Day – the 4th of July. Culturally speaking, it is the ideal summer holiday. Friends, sunshine, and fireworks commemorate all the freedoms and provisions we enjoy as Americans. It is a day designed for joy, contentment, and gratitude. On this day, life is good.
But sometimes life deals us circumstances that just aren’t so enjoyable. Yet, Scripture assures that “…all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose “(Rom 8:28). So how can we honestly say that life is good, when everything feels so bad?
How Bad Becomes Good
I often say that “the worst of times are the best of times – they just don’t feel like it at the time.” As counterintuitive as this seems, any Christian who has been through tough times will ultimately discover themselves drinking deeply of the grace of Christ in new and richer ways. I certainly have my own stories of hard days, as do you. But as I look back now, those pains are only overshadowed by the incredible mercies that God brought in those moments.
So how do we as Christ-followers find (and pursue) the good in these difficult moments? The Bible gives us some practical insight into how bad times can often turn out so good for us. Here are a few of these truths:
1. We Embrace a Deeper Obedience
Easy times can make us spiritually flabby while trials can awaken us to the value of God’s Word. David wrote in Psalm 119:67, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.” A few verses later he affirmed, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (119:71), and he told the Lord, “in faithfulness You have afflicted me” (119:75).
2. We Cultivate an Eternal Perspective
When we are coasting through this life on easy street our hearts becoming excessively charmed by the fleeting pleasures and possessions of this world. God uses troubles to loosen our grip on the attractions of this life and to reawaken us to the values and rewards of eternity. Paul affirmed this:
“Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
3. We Develop More Godly Character
In the long run, character counts more than comfort or convenience. James 1:2-3 tells us, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” Romans 5:3-4 affirms, “We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Luxury and ease spoil character. Challenges and heartaches cultivate character when we receive Christ’s abundant grace in the midst of the tough times.
4. We Assure an Eternal Reward
Godly endurance is always rewarded as we are empowered to learn and grow through the difficult tests. James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” In a similar fashion, the Apostle Peter reassures us, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7).
Our Final Exam
When we stand before Christ in eternity He will not ask us how we enjoyed financial security or about our satisfaction with the creature comforts of life. Rather, we will be evaluated by the degree to which we grew to become like Christ. Most of this growth comes through the trials of life. Our tough times are not easy, nor are they permanent. But they are valuable beyond measure, both in this life and in the one to come.
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Daniel Henderson is president and founder of Strategic Renewal which exists to ignite the heart of the church through personal renewal, congregational revival and leadership restoration for Christ’s glory. As a Senior Pastor for over two decades, Daniel Henderson brought prayer-based revitalization to several mega-churches. Along with Jim Cymbala and dozens of other pastors, he recently launched a national fellowship for pastors focused on the priorities of Acts 6:4, “prayer and the ministry of the word.”