二○一八年九月二十九日／九月三十日 Click here for English version
Contentment amid Trials
Rev Gordon Siu
In many places of the Bible, we see man being tested by God. Trials not only expose the real face of our lives. They also distil and consolidate the good qualities of life within us.
Life was hard for the Israelites in the wilderness. In the absence of food and water, the daily miracles of the manna from heaven did not stop them seeking a sense of security. They wanted some control over the future. God said to Moses, "I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions" (Exodus 16:4). So the people went out each day and gathered enough for that day. But some of them were worried about the continued supply of manna, and kept some for future consumption. The next morning, the manna began to smell. On the contrary, the extra portion of manna brought in on the sixth day by those who obeyed God did not stink. Those who disobeyed God's guidance and tried to collect manna on the seventh day ended up wasting their effort. They found nothing. God said to them, "How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions?"
God gave a promise of daily supplies, and gave rest on the Sabbath. However, man wanted to change the guarantee from God's promise into a grasp of daily supplies. In doing so, man not only wasted his effort and missed his rest, but he also lost the trial. When we cannot enter the richness of God, how can we win the trial? This is not to say that we should not plan ahead, but we should take God as our assurance for today and for eternity. Even in the absence of any seen or foreseeable assurance or reserve, we should never try to control the future by any means contrary to God's will. This is why Paul said, "…but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22). In restlessness, we should still carefully identify what is responsible management of life and what is the making of our own assurance in disbelief using worldly means. The latter offends God and fails the trial.
When tested by God, man faces all kinds of difficulties: deficiency, hardship, sickness, persecution. Some of these are an attack by Satan just like the thorn in the flesh of Paul. However, God does not stop them. It is because God wants the attack of the evil one to be turned into a blessing for us, and to be a trial for us that will bring forth the goodness of life. The Lord told Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you." This means God would not take away the hardship, but with grace Paul was to persevere and face the difficulties so that in the end, the hardship would bear good fruit. With understanding, Paul responded to the weaknesses and hardship with contentment – "I am content with weaknesses, insults" (English Standard Version) and calmly waited for the richness to be brought him through the trials.