8 Mar 2003

Trials Without a Cause

Submitted by theshovel
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This finishes the mini-series on Trials I began in response to some questions I received.

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, 'THEY HATED ME WITHOUT A CAUSE.' John 15:18-25

I realize that you and I might dispute the presence of this hatred in our present situations, but maybe we've only been temporarily shielded from the intensity experienced by those who heard Peter's original words. Remember, Peter did state,

even though now FOR A LITTLE WHILE, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials 1 Peter 1:6

Are we not aware that a sense of comfort and security in the world around us takes the edge off the expression of animosity? Even Jesus experienced times of acceptance, but he wasn't fooled by it. Oh, we may try to fool ourselves, but we know. And we've seen enough in the past couple years to be convinced that it doesn't take much for all hell to break loose. Maybe the hate-gun just hasn't been pointed our way lately.

WITHOUT A CAUSE. And here we are trying to figure out why we sometimes get slammed from out of the blue. But there is no reason behind this kind of trial ... no wonder we get confused when we try to force an understandable cause for the causeless hatred that comes our way.

If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. John 15:18

It might not seem like much of a consolation, except for the testimony it demands about the life that is being hated within you. The fact that it makes absolutely no sense whatever teaches our hearts what a multitude of reasons only confuses.

But we've been guilted about this Scriptural testing of our faith, haven't we? Maybe the memory of judgment drowns out the voice of God's Spirit in our hearts. Perhaps the sound of Biblical words such as...

Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting! Daniel 5:27

...covers over the overwhelming demand of the testing mentioned by Peter (and others). What if the testing of our faith has nothing to do with revealing OUR righteousness but HIS? What if it really does result in "praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ"? What if our faith really is "more precious than gold"? You see, if we were really connecting with Peter's train of thought regarding this testing we would realize there was no good vs. bad outcome ... only a validation of God's life within!

...and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8

Though we may have heard this quoted in the context of possibly NOT obtaining salvation it demands just the opposite! "And though you have not seen Him, you love Him". Notice, no ifs, ands, or buts, just a simple revealing that YOU LOVE HIM. Also, "and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him". Once again, the trials Peter speaks of show forth that Christ IS BELIEVED even though not seen with the eyes.

And not only this, he said, "you greatly rejoice with joy INEXPRESSIBLE and full of glory". You think there might be a distinction between expressible and inexpressible? If so, then is it possible that the rejoicing Peter mentioned is neither increased during times of the expressible nor diminished by the lack of any outward manifestation? Something to consider, you think?

Are we then supposed to only think about heaven all day long so that we never rely on anything?

When I was a child I dreaded going to the dentist. Ironically, the worst part for me was the measure taken to lessen the pain. I'm not sure if he used thick syringes or if it was his way of sticking them in, but I since learned that some dentists can poke you without trauma and injury. Anyhow, he knew it hurt pretty bad because each time he tried to prep me by saying, "Now, I want you to think about something nice, like a vacation." After a while I realized that such mental gymnastics would only destroy my delightful memories of vacations-past and pleasurable expectations of vacations-future!

I suspect that the development of our heavenly concept had far less to do with Christ than most care to admit. Instead, I think we only altered our preexisting concepts of the everlasting future vacation in God-land so that Jesus would get the most important position. I'm not suggesting there's nothing to look forward to because the one who is even now our life will continue to be so long after these bodies finally give out. I don't challenge the reality I challenge the desperation upon which our religious heaven is built. In turn, I have to question the very nature of those thoughts we think we're supposed to be thinking about in order to be thinking about heaven. After all, your question reveals an understandable difficulty that one must constantly think about the better heavenly life in order to displace reliance upon everything else.

Yes, there is a Bible verse that says...

Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth Colossians 3:2

...but the distinction between this and the religious substitute is night and day. For the one seeks to escape reality by struggling to prefer a superior future reality, while the other knows there is only one true ever-present reality behind the facade of this world. The one is a foreign concept we desperately hope to make real, the other is the reality of our very beings because we are already found in Christ. The one views reliance upon God alone as the better choice to be made, but the truth realized in Christ is that nothing else is reliable.

Is the only way we grow through constant trial? Should we turn into a scared wreck if you think God will take your job from you? Do you ever worry over these things? Taking your family away or some weird thing?

We grow through EVERYTHING simply because we have been planted in the living one. The truth is that we'll easily turn into a scared wreck viewing God as that religiously-produced poltergeist. Do I ever worry over these things? Sure, every time I slip back into that dead mentality!! If you have been raised with Christ then HE is your reality. Count on this ... especially every time someone or something demands an alternative reality. Do not give in to the lie that tells you something else, but stand in the reality of Christ.



Jim said: “Is the only way we grow through constant trial? Should we turn into a scared wreck if you think God will take your job from you? Do you ever worry over these things? Taking your family away or some weird thing? We grow through EVERYTHING simply because we have been planted in the living one. The truth is that we’ll easily turn into a scared wreck viewing God as that religiously-produced poltergeist. Do I ever worry over these things? Sure, every time I slip back into that dead mentality!! “-Jim I read this again and wanted to crystallize a few things.. so picking up as a response to what you wrote here: Yeah however, I think I was asking knowing that you and others were also saying that God was in CONTROL of things and ALLOWED things in our lives to happen. For they seemed to be two conflicting realities. The fact that we GROW through everything sounds great until you hear the same old message that God is in CONTROL and ALLOWING stuff to happen to us. Only because when the “allowance” message is preached, it is received as a fleshly perception that demands that God DOES need to cause little disasters in peoples lives to get their attention or to grow them etc..It is all to easy to immediately connect the two and come up with something like: “God is in control and causes hardship but, never should be blamed for any of it because HE does not cause it”. lol Yes THIS is insanity!It’s circular thinking. It makes no sense, and is by it’s very design made to make one crazy. Now if “allowance” meant that He was well pleased to leave us in these bodies that still have the flesh rise up and try to take control of our minds, then ok yes this would be sanity. For “allowing” THAT is His will and certainly does cause all sorts of trouble, however seems necessary in this Life in Christ. But to say Christ/God is allowing disasters DIRECTLY ..well that implies something totally different than “God does not need to manipulate little tragedies to grow us”. Because whether “indirectly” or “directly” it is still an action taken. Kind of reminds me of the game of “willful sin’ and “unknown sin” as if there really is a difference? So the end result is not so I can blame God but rather have sanity in Christ just as I indeed DO have.
theshovel's picture

These comments were all transferred over from the original website

Posted: March 9, 2003 by Bruce

« You see, if we were really connecting with Peter's train of thought regarding this "testing" we would realize there was no good vs. bad outcome ... only a validation of God's life within! »


Hit the nail on the head!!!


Posted: March 9, 2003 by Lynn

Really excellent points and joys realities you share here, JIm - thanks! Blessings and Love in the Glorious Truth who is our Life and Christ! Our Now Life of Newness Forever!

Posted: March 9, 2003 by Paul

w,w,w,w, WOW!

Thanks! This was truly excellent! And it reflects what I know about you, that you are alive in him, with the love to share that life with us!

Posted: March 9, 2003 by Rick


I ask you this, which athletes are pushed the hardest by the coach ? the stars or the scrubs? Who does he spend the most time making run laps, or running practice drills or working the toughest? It is the star. You would think that the best performers deserve to sit back and take it easy because they are already the best, but the good coach pushes them all the harder. Oh, the scrubs are told to work but the ones who get the most attention (some see it as abuse) are the ones who are already the best players so they can become even better.

So who did God test the hardest in Job?s day ? the scrubs or the star? And who had the best result ? his 3 friends or the star?

Brothers, don't think it strange regarding the fiery trials that test you as though some strange thing has happened to you . . .

God bless and keep up the good work.

Posted: March 9, 2003 by Jim V

Good reply - thanks and God Bless you,

Posted: March 9, 2003 by Frank

Hi Jim,

I enjoyed your latest shovel letter and the song that you wrote. Although I am neither poetic nor musical I can relate to your message as I have spent my entire life of 55 years so far feeling like a stranger on this planet and as though I do not belong here. I have also had more than my fair share of trials and suffering to the point that I finally gave up and turned my back on God.
I did not realize until after the fact that my entire concepts and expectations of God were based on false teachings and legalism that are the common cause of many Chrisitians crashing, burning and losing faith.

Last year I attended a secular personal growth and potential seminar which had a business emphasis and found myself being extremely touched during a workshop intended to deal with father/son issues which can have a major impact on our daily lives.

Much to my amazement I had a profound release and emotional response leaving that seminar with tears streaming down my face and the following song complete with orchestral accompaniment playing in my mind at the same time. In light of the subject of your last shovel letter I thought I would share this with you.

Here are the words to the song:
To dream ... the impossible dream ...
To fight ... the unbeatable foe ...
To bear ... with unbearable sorrow ...
To run ... where the brave dare not go ...
To right ... the unrightable wrong ...
To love ... pure and chaste from afar ...
To try ... when your arms are too weary ...
To reach ... the unreachable star ...

This is my quest, to follow that star ...
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far ...
To fight for the right, without question or pause ...
To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause ...

And I know if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie will lie peaceful and calm,
when I'm laid to my rest ...
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach ... the unreachable star ...

Theme song from the Broadway Musical "Man of LaMancha"

Kindest regards Jim,

Yours in Christ

Posted: March 9, 2003 by O

Thanks, Jim for the helpful insights. It helped me when I read that it is Christ's righteousness being revealed...not something I have to work up or produce. I really needed that reminder/insight.

Jim, in fact, I think these insights are more important than most people realize. I'm starting to think that "trying to be a good Christian" makes people feel crazy. That could account for some of the weird things Christians have been doing to one another. (Not to mention how violent religion gets).

God bless you and your ministry.

Posted: March 9, 2003 by Mike Nagle

Hey Jimmy

Loved the good word! CS Lewis said, "Christ is the real reality. All else is shadow!" Good stuff!

Be blessed!


Posted: March 9, 2003 by Richard

"He works on us in all sorts of ways. But above all, He works on us through each other. Men are mirrors, or "carriers" of Christ to other men. Usually it is those who know Him that bring Him to others. That is why the Church, the whole body of Christians showing Him to one another, is so important. It is so easy to think that the Church has a lot of different objects -- education, building, missions, holding services"¦ The Church exists for no other purpose but to draw men into Christ, to make them little christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other reason."??C. S. Lewis


Posted: March 9, 2003 by Mike

Hi Jim,
I just read your Shoveletter. Thanks for what you had to say. It really affirmed some things for me. It was real encouragement for me in the midst of difficult times.

Jim, Does not God Himself CAUSE[or let/or not remove it] trial? What do we do with Paul’s thorn in the flesh?[given to him by God Himself] Or how about the discipline of the Lord as expressed in Hebrews? Or even Job in his being afflicted by the Lord?[not as great of an example because of it’s limited outer example]James talked about ‘testing’ our faith and Peter did as well. They both seemed to reveal a growth in the happenings of this world through His direction, ‘letting’ or ‘allowing’. Paul talked so much about being given over to death and sufferings SO THAT he would not trust in himself but in the One who has the power to raise the dead..and also that they might be comforted in a TRUE and living sense through it all, so that they might offer true comfort to others going through this world.I realize it might be the same issues but just a different side of the coin. How do you see this tying in to this wonderful series you wrote back when?
theshovel's picture

Paul stated that God works all things together for our good, which surely includes those trials brought upon us by the world. Does he cause what someone else caused? In a very real sense, no. But then again, in his orchestration of all things in which he uses everything for our good, he does. Our problems with all this is that we keep trying to imagine or assume that God reasons according to that which seems logical to man.

this most likely ties into the exhortation by Paul to fix our eyes on what is ‘unseen’?
theshovel's picture

For sure, it does. :)


Simply awesome!

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Random Shovelquote: To the pure (view all shovelquotes)

Because our history has been rewritten in Christ, all things are pure to us. source