November 9, 2004 ē By Ed Wrather
Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented - of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. - Hebrews 11:36-40.
A school custodian in South New Jersey was going about his work one evening as he usually did when the unexpected happened. The Little Egg Harbor Intermediate School became the unintended target of a National Guard F-16 fighter jet, which unleashed 25 rounds of 20mm cannon fire. Thankfully, damage was minimal with only some damage to the schoolís roof and the asphalt outside the school building. Of course, the school custodian is still shaking! It is now thought that the cannon fire was completely accidental and unintended but still it has to make you pause in thought if you work or have children in that school building.
Hebrews chapter 11 is the roll call of the heroes of the faith. Everyone is miraculously delivered until you reach the end of the chapter where you learn that some were not delivered from unnatural death on this earth. In fact, some suffered a horrible fate being "sawn in two." That sounds bad to me and I would not want to experience such a thing.
Even if we do not experience the difficult things mentioned in the last of Hebrews 11 we may still not live easy lives. At times, it may seem like a fighter jet has unloaded cannon fire at random upon us. We may even feel like we have a bulls eye painted on us, which someone is using for target practice.
What am I talking about? Iím talking about life. We may wake up one morning and everything seems fine and have a terrible traffic accident on the way to work. Or, we may make it to work and find out that the company is not doing well and it has been decided there must be some cutbacks in employees. We may have our yearly physical and learn that everything is not okay. We come home from work and our wife or husband has decided to leave us. I think you get the picture. Sometimes it feels like we are being used for target practice.
How should we respond when the cannon of life is roaring and the shells are exploding around us? James gives us a hard word in James 1:2-3 where he says, "My brethren, COUNT IT ALL JOY when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." God is going to use those shells exploding around you to develop you, to change you, to make you better, to make you more like Him. Out of the bad comes the good just as we are told in Romans 8:28, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." Part of that good is for us to become more and more like our Lord Jesus, "For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29a)."
Let us rejoice! For our God loves us and is working in every tiny aspect of our lives, and will bring good out of the bad. Just, "count it all joy."