Down or Up

Have you ever stopped to think about why some folks are able to weather great loss and misfortune while others fall apart? I was thinking about this bit of wisdom found in Proverbs 24:16: “…for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.” [NIV] The thought here is not about whether one falls into misfortune but what that person does when it happens. Life is not always easy. Life can come at us hard. What we trust in for help is what makes or breaks us. I have known people through the years that have had bad things happen to them. Years later, after the event they are still angry at God or themselves. They fail to see God’s providential care over them in the days and years afterward.

A certain hiker on a mountain path stumbles on a small rock and falls. He picks himself up and continues on, paying more attention to where he is going. Another hiker comes along later and stumbles on the same small rock and falls. He curses the rock and God for letting him fall. He will eventually pick himself up but he may turn around and go home to never hike again. It is too hard and the path is too unfair.

It is easy to talk boldly that we trust God when in church or around our Christian friends. However, our actions under fire will prove the truth. When temptations assail our brains, when disease press us down or even when violence enters our world and violates either us or our loved ones, how we emerge from the fiery of trials will either prove or disprove our words. If in fact we trust God even when the trial is unfair and makes no earthly sense, we will emerge experiencing God’s peace that passes understanding. The one who is unwilling to trust God in all circumstances will go into the furnace and not emerge. There he will stay because he refuses to look up and see God’s help. He thinks that there is no one to uphold him. The one, who refuses to look with eyes of faith, will fail to see Jesus walking beside him through the flames with His hand out.

We are never totally secure living in a world where both the just and the unjust are subject to worldly cares, losses or the insidious attacks of the man. There is always a choice. Those who place their lives in God’s hands never lose sight of God’s presence. They are the ones that seem to flourish in spite of their dire circumstances. Those opting to shun God and continue in impatience with life, fretting constantly and never understanding that no one can protect themselves against evil or have the strength to rise again when bad things happen in a fallen world.

The furnace of misfortune, disaster, human fickleness, grievous affliction and just plain misery, sorts out the ones who outwardly profess that God loves them but fail to walk that way, from those who have applied God’s love to their hearts and continue to live righteously in an evil world. John Gill writes in his Exposition on the Entire Bible: A just man, though he does not fall from his righteousness, which is an everlasting one, nor from the grace of God; yet he may fall into temptation, and by it he may fall into sin, as every just man does; “for there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sins not…” [Ecc 7:20]

The mark of a godly man whose walk matches his talk, is able to do so because he keeps receiving via prayer a fresh application of grace. In his hurt and grief, he seeks God through the Word and learns how to walk in integrity [talk equals walk] and gains wisdom outside of his natural ability. Sin wants to put us down and keep us down. Grace wants to revive us no matter how grievous the sin. Remember David entering into adultery and then murder of his trusted friend to cover his sin with his wife? God did not leave him in that furnace. David, being a godly man named, owned and repented of his sin. God restored him to fellowship but not without consequences. If David had chosen to hide his sin he would have had no escape and his story would end differently. David sought access to God’s pardoning grace and therefore God could bring healing to him. Had David chosen to shun God’s forgiveness God would have left him to his own devices to wallow in it. The problem is, sin left unattended to its own devices will lead to more sin and that will lead to more trouble and distress.

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