About Jesus    Steve Sweetman

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Maturity Through Hardship

Back in the early 1970s, I used to admire those people who had been Christians for more than 20 years. I used to think, "Wow, I can’t wait until I’m a mature Christian like those guys." Whether I want to admit it or not, I have just passed my 30th birthday as a Christian. Do all those years alone make me a mature Christian? No, but many events during those years have brought me to a measure of maturity. The number of years means little. What you have done with those years means everything!

There are many characteristics of a mature Christian. Gray hair isn’t necessarily one of them. A mature Christian is a good server, a dedicated worker in God’s kingdom, one with well ripened fruit of the Spirit, one who loves the Word of God. The list could go on and on. How then, does one become a mature Christian?

The answer is simple. We must want the Lord to bring change, to sand down the rough edges of our lives. We must want Him to carve us into the person He originally intended us to be. Did I say "carve"? That sounds painful. At times it is.

How then, does God do this carving? There are many ways in which He remolds our lives. One way is His use of "rough times" in our lives. Allowing the Lord His free hand to sculpture our lives during hard times will produce maturity and a solidness in our lives.

What does the Bible say about tough times? Paul tells us in Rom. 5:3,4 that he embraced hard times because he knew that difficulty and hardship "produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope" (NIV). Just picture for a moment what it must have been like for Paul in the shipwreck of Acts 27. All the men around him were terrified because their ship was ready to sink. Paul had a submissive spirit towards the Lord. Tough as it was, Paul knew that if he fully trusted the Lord, this experience would eventually bring hope to him and the rest of the men on the ship.

There are two types of people: those who run from hard times, and those who embrace difficult  times. Those who embrace hard times don‘t go looking for them, nor do they bring them about. They simply face them, and deal with them.

For me personally, the hardest time in my life was when I went through an unwanted divorce. I could have easily got mad at the Lord and backslid. Many do just that. I told the Lord that despite what happened to me, I would still follow him. I would let those heart-wrenching days produce more of His character in me. I would live in forgiveness, yet at the same time stand for the truth of the Lord without compromise. I did not run. Was it painful? It sure was! Looking back, the Lord took a very difficult time and turned it into an experience that made me a stronger person.

I have had many added pressures of life due to my poor eyesight. Once a teacher made fun of me at school in front of my peers, feeling the blackboard, and pretending he was blind. Once a man told me it was too scary for him to hire me as an employee. When I was 15 years old I really believed that Jesus would heal my poor eyesight so that I could drive a car. My 16th birthday came and went with no healing. Even at that early age I did not run, nor did I get mad at God. I allowed His grace to be enough for me. The list of disappointments, struggles and hard times could go on due to my poor vision. I am not saying I am a super Christian. There have been too many people who have gone through much worse than me to make me feel sorry for myself. Yet, I can confidently say from my own experience, that if you do not run from hard times, Jesus will produce good things in your life. He will make you solid. You will be able to stand strong before the Lord and the world. You will be mature, not floundering here, there and everywhere.

This is clear to me, that maturity does not come from running from the unpleasant events of life. When we look at the problem, the situation straight on, and say, "I will not run, I will surrender to Jesus," His presence will produce what nothing else can in our lives. As the apostle Peter has written, "though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Pet. 1:6,7, NIV).


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