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“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7)
“This is what the LORD says, ‘Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives.
But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.'” (Jeremiah 17:5-8)
We all go through different seasons in our Christian walks. Whether we’re enduring pain and hardships or whether we’re enjoying abundant blessings and prosperity, our character is continually being tested. Will we be proven to be steadfastly rooted in Christ through all seasons? Or will we allow different seasons to corrupt our character?
Many of us feel that our characters are tested the most during times of adversity and suffering. Hardship definitely reveals where we are rooted, and it certainly divides the true from the false believers. In the Parable of The Sower (Matthew 13:1-15, 18-23; Mark 4:1-20; Luke 8:4-15) Jesus explains that the seeds sown in the rocky soil are like those who receive the Word of God with joy and spring up quickly; however, when the fiery heat of trouble and persecution comes on account of the Word, these people quickly wither away for they have no root (Matthew 13:21). (See “The Parable of The Sower” (Events of The Bible Series)).
True believers, on the other hand, will only develop a stronger root system in Christ whenever they encounter difficulties. Trials are often the agents through which our relationship with God grows deeper and stronger.
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us.” (Romans 5:1-5)
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade–kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, 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 honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3-9)
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Romans 8:28-30)
Though bad times test our character in Christ, Scripturally speaking, good times often proved more challenging for the Israelites to remain faithful to God than the bad times. Blessings and prosperity can easily corrupt our character in a number of different ways if we are not careful: pride, complacency, indulgence, idolatry, greed, laziness, etc.
“Observe the commands of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and revering him. For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land–a land with streams and pools of water, with springs flowing in the valleys and hills; a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills.
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. He led you through the vast and dreadful desert, that thirsty and waterless land, with its venemous snakes and scorpions. He brought you water out of hard rock. He gave you manna to eat in the desert, something your fathers had never known, to humble and test you so that in the end it might go well with you. You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.” (Deuteronomy 8:6-18)
I once spoke with a Muslim background believer in Christ from China who was temporarily living in Australia. I asked her if it was harder to remain faithful to Christ in an Islamic/Communist place of persecution or here in a prosperous country with freedom of religion like Australia.
She said that it was more difficult for her to remain faithful to Christ in Australia for two different reasons. One, the abundant prosperity tempted her to become comfortable, complacent and lukewarm in her walk with God whereas the persecution in China helped to keep her faithful.
Two, true, pure Christianity was very scarce in Australia because of the lack of persecution (which works to refine, purify and unify believers in the truth) and so false “christian” religion prospers everywhere here. Being exposed to false religion on such a large scale had the potential to be very dangerous and detrimental to her relationship with God (had he not already taught her otherwise) with all of its false doctrines and untrue, unspiritual practices. She also said she struggled to find true Christian fellowship with others because of this.
While both sufferings and blessings test our roots, we also get tested in other ways. Success and achievement, for example, can try our character just as much pain and prosperity. When we are given a leadership role or when our name becomes known or our business or ministry expands greatly, will we still maintain an attitude of humility? Or will we start thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought? Will we praise God for the increase? Or will we harbor pride secretly in our hearts?
King Saul is an example of a man who, once small in his own eyes (1 Samuel 15:17), became corrupted by power, honor and success. He even ended up building a monument to himself (1 Samuel 15:12) instead of glorifying God for the great victory he granted him.
Jesus, on the other hand, was rooted in God, and his character was never corrupted by what people thought or said about him. One person commented to him, “…we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are” (Matthew 22:16).
If we are rooted in Christ we will likewise not be swayed by the praise or persecution that comes from men.
“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.” (Proverbs 20:21)
“So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (1 Peter 4:19)
“Brothers, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (James 5:10-11)
My painting symbolizes a Christian who has strong roots going down deep into Christ. The background is filled with many different colors, which represent many different seasons and testings in our lives. Nevertheless, the true Christian, like a tree with deep roots, stands firm and immovable in Christ. Even as they feel the strong wind of different seasons blowing through their branches, by God’s grace, they remain steadfast and consistent in their Christlike character through everything.
“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you…” (1 Corinthians 15:58)