Acts 16:31 (NIV)
31They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved —you and your household.”
God is our Potter and we area clay in His hands. All the promises He lists in the Bible is to show an example of a potential Masterpiece for His glory. In this scripture, God promised us one of the most powerful assurances that if someone in the household gets saved, the entire household would get saved, and I think as believers, we don`t always remember this promise and use it in our lives. This promise alone produces masterpieces of changed lives for God`s glory.
The reason why this particular scripture is so crucial for me is because my marriage (my household) cracked in half because one decided to be saved and another one decided to live for desires of its flesh. If every married couple memorized this scripture and stood on this promise, than God would have been faithful to complete what He started. It is much easier to find justifications as to why divorce is appropriate and why relationships didn`t work, rather than trust the Lord to be faithful to fulfill this scripture. This particular excuse for being unsaved could not be used in marriage when looking into the issue of marrying an unbeliever or getting saved after being married because it`s clear that God has promised to save entire household.
One of the pastors and some of my friends told me I was completely justified to get a divorce because my husband left me, and because he acts like an unbeliever (although claiming to be saved), according to 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, I could keep up with my life if only stayed unmarried. Year ago this lie would have been very appealing to me, but today I choose to believe that God is faithful to finish what he started; and according to His word, He promised that if one person gets saved, the entire household would get saved. Being saved means a complete change of behavior because salvation produces fruit of repentance just like walking in Spirit produces fruits of the Holy Spirit that are mentioned in Galatians 5.
I could use excuses for my husband being unfaithful, and doing plenty of other things to ruin my life, but I choose to look at my circumstances through a different lenses. I choose to look at my afflictions and trials as a way for God to raise my faith to the next level in order to use me in His ministry that I`ve been praying for so many years. We tend to rush into concluding that all the problems and sufferings that we get are from Satan, and some of them do come in as an attempt to destroy us as 1 Peter 5:8 says that Satan seeks whom to devour as he roams around like a lion. However, in majority of the other circumstances, it is God who puts us through the refining furnace of afflictions to save us, to build us up, and to purify our faith.
One of the scriptures through the sermon that I listened to last week just brought me even lower to my knees. The scripture was from Lamentations 3 where Jeremiah laments about what happened to him and what became of him.
1[a]I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord’s wrath. 2He has driven me away and made me walkin darkness rather than light; 3 indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long. 4 He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones. 5He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship.6He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead. 7He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. 8Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. 9He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked. 10Like a bear lying in wait,like a lion in hiding, 11he dragged me from the path and mangled meand left me without help.12 He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows. 13He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver. 14I became the laughingstock of all my people; they mock me in song all day long. 15 He has filled me with bitter herbs and given me gall to drink. 16He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust. 17I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. 18 So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:1-18 NIV)
For some of us it does require to have God “break our bones”, or to “dwell in darkness” (have silence from God and not have any guidance from Him what to do), or to have “Him drive you away into the darkness rather than light”, or to have His hand “turn against” you again and again, or to have “bitterness and hardships”, or to be “walled in”, so there is no escape.
Look at all these things that Jeremiah names for what God did to him in order to gain his full attention. It wasn`t Satan who burdened Jeremiah with all those afflictions, it was God Himself who did that. I was blown away when I re-read that whole third chapter because it answered to one of my main questions as to when would my trials stop? It would not stop until I completely surrender to God and scrub all my pride out because God would not be able to use me in my current capacity. My faith although gotten stronger, but I am not at the place of complete surrender yet, and now I know it because time to time I test it through different scriptures or sermons. I complain and complain, and complain, instead of laying all my burdens down at the cross. God is a Potter, and He will not give up on any of His masterpieces until each of His art projects is finished.
To me it was a revelation to hear that the reason why it took 25 years for Abraham to have Isaac, since the day God promised him a son, was because it took 25 years for God to make Abraham into Abraham (Father of faith) instead of him staying as Abram (Genesis 17:1-5). God wasn`t interested in just producing an offspring by using Abraham`s lineage, He was interested in producing a Father of Faith who could be used as an example for the next thousands of generations.
It takes time to get me to the place of complete surrender, but it`s really up to me as to how long it would take. As soon as I`m ready to do what it takes, God would move the mountains if necessary to accomplish His promise to save my household and to bring my marriage back together. It`s up to me how much I would prolong my afflictions to get to the place of surrender.
If you have trials and you feel hopeless, it`s up to you as to how much longer you would resist God`s hand. Surrender it all- meaning you die to yourself (the lust of the flesh, the pride, the selfishness; they have to go), and as soon that happens, God would be more than willing to take you by the hand and bless you.
This was a great revelation to me to be reminded that not only did God promised to save my whole family, but He also promised to bless me in plenty of other ways: to deliver me, to save me, to love me, to guard me, to protect me, to provide for me, and the list goes on and on. I don`t want to spend 25 years like Abraham did to allow God to accomplish what He started only because I chose to live with pride, or not to look foolish in the eyes of the world, or to look too meek and lowly. This is exactly what Jesus was: lowly, meek, and humble, and He urged us to learn of Him to become the same way (Matthew 11:29)
Year ago, I was thinking about all the justified things I could name in order to divorce my husband, but year later, I`m naming all the promises of God that I have in order to save my family. It takes all this time for God to mold me to become His masterpiece because there are some areas in my life that I still hold on to and refuse to let go. God is faithful to finish what He started, but it`s really up to us as how long it would take to allow God to finish each one of His art projects. Jeremiah had his teeth broken with gravel, and he went through endless amount of imprisonments in order to say later on:
19I remember my affliction and my wandering,the bitterness and the gall. 20I well remember them,and my soul is downcast within me. 21Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23They are new every morning;great is your faithfulness. 24I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 25 The Lordis good to those whose hope is in him,to the one who seeks him; 26it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.27It is good for a man to bear the yokewhile he is young. 28 Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lordhas laid it on him. 29 Let him bury his face in the dust — there may yet be hope. 30Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace. 31For no one is cast off by the Lord forever. 32Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love. 33For he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to anyone. (Lamentations 3:19-33 NIV)
“It is good for a man to bear yoke”, and so many months later, I can testify to that and agree with Jeremiah. Through my hardships and agonies I learn to trust the Lord completely. Only on Saturday I was choking by all the impossibilities of my circumstances and helplessness, but I bring them to the Lord now, so many months later, and I say that “Lord Is my portion”, and I will wait for Him. God is faithful and just although He had to hide from me again and again at some point in order to crack me and to refine me; I am grateful to Him so many months later that He continues to guide me and to sustain me.
What`s amazing in this whole situation is that God does provide me with the special anointing to make it through these valleys of death just like He promised in Psalm 84:6-8 (NIV):
5Blessed are those whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. 6As they pass through the Valley of Baka,they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools.[d] 7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
In my Bible it literally means as I walk through the Valley of Weeping, I open up the springs. God brings me from strength to strength and showers me with these “springs” of His revelations. I read His word and I find endless amount of promises and discover His word under new lenses that I`ve never noticed before. How else could I ever get to this place if I wasn`t going through this valley of weeping.
I have learnt a very valuable lesson that God is faithful to fulfill His promises, but He doesn`t bend His conditions. There are conditions apply to His promise every single time. He will spend as much time as needed to refine me in order to bring me to the same place as Jeremiah got to say that God is the One who brings over all these afflictions for my own benefit. It is because He made me with purpose to serve Him, and until He refines me into the person that He could use, He is not going to stop “breaking my teeth” or putting me through the “darkness” when I can`t hear His voice. God is a Sovereign God and because He doesn`t compromise His standards, He takes all the necessary time show us how His promises work; how His conditions apply in each promise.
If you are in a similar situation, I encourage you to look at your circumstances from the different angle and seek the Lord to show you the purpose of them. He will guide you if only you would seek Him. He doesn`t want any life to be wasted, and chances are, if you do go through some horrible afflictions like I am, it is because it`s either you with whom He is doing some major “Art Project” or with the opposing party who needs time in order to surrender to God. Remember, that it wasn`t only Joseph who needed 13 years in jail, but it was also his brothers who needed certain amount of time to realize what they did to Joseph was unacceptable and barbarian in order to repent. There are always two sides to the medal.
Remember, also that if you face family issues, don`t through the flag down and give up, but trust the Lord is capable to do the major “Art Project” to mold you into the one whom He plans you to be. More than ones God likens us to the clay in His hands, and Him being a Potter (Romans 9:20-21); He can produce some major art masterpiece with your life if you would allow Him to use your life as a vessel for His glory.