Qualified for Glory

Throughout our lives it becomes necessary for us to examine our beliefs as children of God and determine what we stand for and how these beliefs impact others and ourselves. Most often this is not of ourselves but is occasioned by God through trials and hardship. Especially, it seems, are these beliefs tried, tested, and proved throughout the teenage years and young adulthood. Most often the testing of these takes place during the highs and lows or the good and bad times in our lives. In each of these cases, these extremes, when it seems that we as Christians would and should draw close to our heavenly Father, most often instead we have drifted away from Him. When we most require the guidance, love, and care of our God, we instead have turned our backs on Him. As a result we lose sight of the fact that God has a plan for all mankind as well as for each individual; believer and unbeliever alike. We have lost sight of, and do not have a proper understanding of, the loving care of our Lord as brought about by His eternal council. This was recently brought to the fore following the terrorist attacks that devastated New York City and brought the world to its feet in indignation. Heard throughout our own nation were the prayers, but also the questions of how God could allow something like this to happen? How could a supposedly loving God have any part in such a horrific event? The conclusion that many have come to is that He didn’t. It could not have been the will of God that these things occur. What these fail to understand is that man’s definition of good and bad, beneficial and disastrous, does not correspond with the definition that God puts with these, at least as it relates to His Church. We must notice here that the trials which God sends affect the world and the Church in drastically different ways. For those of the world, each trial is a fiery coal set on their head serving only to further their condemnation. But for the Church these trials serve as the chisel and hammer with which God, the master sculptor, readies us for heaven.

For that very reason we need not fear, nor be disheartened when these trials are come upon us, even though Satan would have us become overwhelmed by them. Our Father has given a promise that stands clear in the eye of the believer through faith by the grace of God. It is the great truth to which we as sons and daughters of God cling to: that God will preserve not only His church as a whole until the end, but that He will also preserve His children individually. He will work all things in this life for our salvation.

In order to better understand this, it is necessary that we realize and observe that God places each individual believer in various circumstances in this present life. The question that often arises in regards to this is why? Why isn’t what is good for you good for me? Why is it not possible for me to experience those things that you experience? As foolish as this sort of questioning seems for Christians, for Christ Himself teaches us that we must have a childlike trust in God (Mark 10:14, 15), they are questions that plague each and every one of us in our daily walk. Questions that Satan and his hosts delight in and, if it were possible, would that we would be consumed by them. A thorough examination of Scripture however reveals the simple yet amazing answers to these questions. The apostle Paul writes in II Corinthians 4:15-17: “For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” God has called each of us to walk a particular pathway through this life, and although it is possible for those paths to seem very much alike at times, they are at other times drastically different. This is easily seen by looking briefly at the lives of those around us. Some have found a mate with which to spend the rest of their earthly lives while others seek but never find. Some have been blessed with many children while other couple’s homes remain childless. Some must deal with sickness and infirmity daily, while others seem to live relatively healthy lives. There are those who must constantly deal with an errant loved one, but others have entire families that never seem to stray.

As children of God we must bear in mind three main points as we regard our lot in this life. First of all, the Lord brings all things in our lives to pass in order to strengthen our faith. James 1:3-4 clearly demonstrates this: “Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Talk to any sports coach or leader in the armed forces of our country and they will tell you that adversity works to strengthen individuals. Likewise this is true in the lives of God’s people. It is the conviction of the child of God and the clear teaching of Scripture that God has a plan for the world, the wicked, and His Church. If that is true, and it is, it must follow then that all those things which God sends on us as part of that plan are for our good, for our salvation (Psalm 73:24). Is it not true that the whole reason for the existence of this world is that through the condemnation of the wicked and the salvation of the righteous, in accordance with His plan, God Himself may be glorified? Having just set forth the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11, the author goes on in chapter 12 to encourage the Hebrews, as well as the church of all ages to follow these heros in the example they have set. If they could endure such great trials of faith, the reward of which was their very salvation, surely we also can and must endure those things by grace, with which the Lord supplies us in abundance. Through these things our faith is strengthened and proved in order that we may be assured of our salvation. More and more we look to Him for all things necessary for body and soul until that time He has determined when He will call us home.

Secondly, in sending these things in our lives God uses them to work out our salvation. Very really, each happening in our lives God uses to save us. It is truly wonderful and incomprehensible how God leads us through this valley of tears in order to take us home to Him. And that indeed is what we must understand and confess. You see, that is the basis, the foundation if you will, of the hope that we cling to. Our Father has elected us and has before ordained that we should be His children (Acts 13:48), however, it is in part through our walk in this life that the Lord works out our salvation. Elihu, one of the friends of Job, in speaking to Job of the way in which God works deliverance in us through those things we experience in our lives, exhorts Job in Job 30:29, 30: “Lo, all these things worketh God oftentimes with man, to bring back his soul from the pit, to be enlightened with the light of the living.” This is also the clear teaching of the apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians, 1:29: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for His sake.” What a joy then it is for us to be given the opportunity to endure suffering and trial for the sake of Christ! This wonderful and comforting truth is illustrated in Romans 5:3 where we read: “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope.” Also, there is the well known Word of God in Romans 8:28. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Our Father sends many adversities or tribulations into our lives, each of which is a gentle shaping by the great sculptor in preparation for our place in glory. For the Christian, each experience in this life points us directly back to the Father as He who sends those experiences. Indeed what a great comfort it is to know that I am so preserved “that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 1).”

And thirdly, God prepares us for our own particular place in heaven through our lives here on this earth. Our afflictions, and even our successes, are specifically tailored by God to each individual believer as He shapes and forms us in and through this life in order that we may fill our place in glory to perfection. When finally the day arrives that we are called to glory it will only be upon the completion of our place in heaven (John 14:2, 3). Likewise we also must be prepared to fill that particular place that has been prepared. The fact that each individual believer experiences unique circumstances throughout life points directly to the reality that each of us will have a peculiar place in glory. The Lord gives to each in the church certain gifts and abilities. God then uses the experiences of this life, whether positive or negative, to build upon those gifts and abilities. When our pilgrimage comes to an end here on earth, our gifts and abilities will remain with us in heaven, only to be perfected there. These will then be used in the particular charge into which God will place us in heaven. Although Scripture does not give great detail as to what exactly our duties will be, it is sure that they will involve enjoying and praising God. There is great encouragement in this for the child of God. To know that all those things which we endure here on earth: sickness, pain, sorrow, etc., all work to perfect our salvation within the council of God. In them we are made aware again and again of the hope we as believers have that one day God will call each of us home at the time that He has appointed, having been prepared completely, to live forever with Him in glory.

As is plain by now, this requires a great deal of faith, which our gracious God, by His grace has equipped us with, whether young or old, black or white, man, woman, or child. In no way is it ever possible for us to believe without the grace that God in His good pleasure gives to us. In no way are we ever able to earn that faith (II Timothy 1:9, Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:9). God, through the work of the Holy Spirit works that faith in our hearts continuously. He does not give us faith, leaving it up to us whether we will keep that faith or not. For were that the case, we would all be damned to eternal hell fire and none would be saved. God has chosen a people whom He has saved through the death of Christ on the cross, and to them He gives faith. We must however add here that simply to have faith is not enough. There must also be works. God glorifying, filled with adoration and thankfulness, so moved by the Holy Spirit to be sure. As James 2:26 illustrates, the very spirit of faith is works. The result of a true faith will always be these works. Without these works of thankfulness and gratitude, our faith is dead. For this we must be ever thankful. Article twelve under the third and fourth heads of doctrine in the Canons speaks of our regeneration as “a supernatural work…most delightful, astonishing, mysterious, and ineffable.” This is followed by article thirteen which states, as it refers to those to whom this salvation is bestowed, “Not withstanding which, they rest satisfied with knowing and experiencing, that by this grace of God they are enabled to believe with the heart, and love their Savior.”

Then, by the grace of God, through faith we view our own lives and the events which take place within them in the light of these marvelous truths. For we have been given faith, and are assured throughout the Scriptures that our heavenly Father works all things not simply for our good in this life, but through them and in them He works our very salvation. As Romans 11:33 proclaims: “O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.” Knowing this we are enabled to view the events of September 11 along with any other situation in our daily lives and confidently say with the apostle Paul in Romans 8:37-39, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The Lord give us the strength and unfailing grace to see His hand in all the trials and hardships which He sends upon us in our lives, regarding them as blessings always, and in seeing this, to give Him all the glory, forever and ever.