I used to be a very angry and unforgiving person. I believed that I became that way because of trials I experienced as a teenager. However, I now know that I became that way because anger and unforgiveness were already in my heart. My trials only brought those sins to the surface.
When I experienced my conversion and started living for Christ, I thought that those strongholds would melt away and I will quickly be transformed. To my distress, it didn’t happen that way. Although I was far happier and more peaceful than I was before my conversion, I continued to have outbursts of anger and hurt those around me.
I realized I still had a problem, so I said many prayers, read loads of books about forgiveness, and sought spiritual help by joining a prayer group. The women prayed with me to truly forgive others from the heart. At one of those sessions, I had a powerful breakthrough and felt a deeper level of forgiveness and peace than I ever had before.
For years, little by little God transformed that stronghold into a “weak-hold.” Every day, I continue crying out to God for healing and praising Him for an upcoming complete victory. I continue reading the Bible and make efforts to grow in virtue.
I firmly believe that someday soon, I will experience complete victory and those habitual sins will be nothing more than a distant memory of defeated foes. I will be transformed into the peaceful, loving person God created me to be and live in the freedom Christ promised me.
The COVID-19 Trial
The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis that is affecting every man, woman, and child on earth in some way. This, like any other trial, is revealing what’s already in our hearts.
- anger, hatred, and bitterness
- sadness, despair, and hopelessness
- fear and anxiety
- hope, faith, and love
Yes, a crisis squeezes us and reveals what is actually inside. Fear, pride, unbelief in God, idolatry, resentment, etc…
A tube of toothpaste, when squeezed, squirts out toothpaste. A tube of lipgloss, when squeezed, squirts out lipgloss. And paint will come out of a paint tube.
The crisis doesn’t create what is inside of us. It brings it out of us. This is the refining process.
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45Luke 6:45
When gold is refined, it is placed in an intensely hot furnace. Any dross that was in the gold, any impurities, rise up to the surface so the goldsmith can skim them off and the gold can be purified. When it is pure, the goldsmith can see his reflection clearly in the valuable gold.
God can do the same with us as we face a crisis or trial if we are willing. And as He refines us, more and more, He can see His reflection in our lives. This is why we can count trials as joy. Because God uses them to help us grow and become more like Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us.
The trial isn’t a joy, but the fruit and spiritual treasures are amazing! May we not waste this trial or fight the refining process. This is a time for our faith to be stretched, purified, and strengthened to prepare us for what is ahead.
Count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.Rom. 6:11
What would Jesus do in response to a trial?
Let’s examine Jesus’s response to the trials of being:
- Unfairly sentenced to death
- Abandoned by his closest friends
- Stripped naked in public (The loincloth on the crucifix is included out of respect for Him. The truth is that Jesus was stripped completely naked.)
- Forced to carry a heavy cross
- Left on the cross to die in excruciating pain
Our sweet Jesus reacted to such painful and humiliating trials with love, mercy, humility, and kindness because that was His heart before the trial.
What a wonderful example He is for all of us!
We can rejoice that He is with us in our trials, ready to give us wisdom and strength to grow in holiness through them.
Right now, due to COVID-19, the whole world is in crisis. This is a tremendous opportunity for us to see what’s in our hearts and turn to the Great Physician and Wonderful Counsellor for transformation, healing, and deliverance.
What has COVID-19 revealed in your heart?
Review your reactions to this pandemic so far. Is there any dross coming to the surface as you endure this refining fire?
- Have you lost your faith? Do you feel like everything you were trusting in has been shaken to the core?
- Have you slipped into a deep depression or hopelessness? What were your expectations? Where was your hope?
- Have you been anxious, fearful, or paranoid? Do you feel like things have to go a certain way for you to feel peace?
- Have you been rebellious toward God? Are there any commands you have knowingly been ignoring or violating?
- Have you been angry, bitter, or unforgiving toward your nation’s leaders about how they handled the pandemic so far? Or maybe toward family members, coworkers, or neighbors? Is there any resentment building up? Maybe even toward God?
- Have you been unduly frustrated and annoyed with the way people around you are handling the crisis?
If you have reacted in any of these ways, prayerfully consider the following:
- Review your life to see if you typically react to trials in that way. If you have, you have successfully identified a stronghold in your heart. A stronghold is nothing more than a habitual sin that needs to be weakened and eventually destroyed completely and replaced with the opposite virtue
- Thank God for the opportunity to see your sins more clearly.
- Humbly repent of any sins the Lord graciously illuminates in your life.
- Ask God to cleanse, purify, and transform your heart.
- Read everything the Bible says about the opposite virtue to your stronghold. For example, if you have been rebellious, read what the Bible says about humility, submission, and obedience.
- Use godly affirmations (eg. “I am humble and submissive to Christ” or “I choose a submissive spirit”.)
- Praise God for his power and thank him in advance for your upcoming victory over this stronghold
- Seek spiritual support by joining a prayer group. Many virtual prayer groups have emerged during this time. Do an online search to find one!
Transformation takes time. This is a lifelong process of allowing God to conform us into the image of Christ. But as we receive His input and allow Him to work, He gives us the ability to live in our new natures and set the old nature aside as crucified with Christ.
Do not be terrified by them, for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God.
The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you. But the Lord your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed. He will give their kings into your hand, and you will wipe out their names from under heaven. No one will be able to stand up against you; you will destroy them.
This passage is telling us not to be terrified or overwhelmed by our strongholds because God is with us. He is a great and awesome God! God can empower us and help us drive out habitual sins from our hearts.
Sometimes it happens all at once. Other times, it happens over time. But God can give us victory even our biggest habitual sins through what Jesus has done for us on the cross. We are no longer slaves to sin if we belong to Jesus! (Rom. 6.)
- Imagine living free of rebellion, bitterness, fear, or depression!
- Imagine being full of love for God and your fellow man!
- Imagine having unyielding hope, joy, and deep peace—even in the most terrible circumstances!
All of this is possible through Christ.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.Rom. 8:37
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.John 8:34-35