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Three "F's"
by Philip Owen

      Some years ago, my family and I arrived home after a brief two-day vacation only to receive bad news seemingly on every hand.  One of the men of the church called and echoed my feelings with the words:  “The Lord is giving no rest on any side!”  I opened my Bible for direction and respite, and the Lord directed my attention to Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes:  “I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it” (3:10, KJV).  Jeremiah cries the same thing:  “We are worn out, there is no rest for us.  The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned into mourning.  The crown has fallen from our head; woe to us, for we have sinned!” (Lam. 5:5b, 15, 16).

      Is it not astonishing that these men—men who knew and loved the Lord—should cry out in anguish over their manifold afflictions?  And what about the many other godly men who were oppressed and tried?  What about Daniel?  And Moses?  And Abraham, asked to offer up his son?  Or Job?  And what about Paul?  And John, the author of a gospel, three epistles, and The Revelation, boiled in oil and exiled?  What about these godly men?  Did God fail them?  Did He commit a breach of promise?  Was He merely toying with them?  Why, if God is God, are men in travail?  Consider this partial list of reasons.

      There is affliction because God does not (1) forget.  “Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb?  Even these may forget, but I will not forget you” (Isa. 49:15).  Men have trials because the Lord does not forget—forget that the flesh must die daily, that it must be kept down, it must be crucified.  Trials strengthen the inner man; afflictions weaken the outer man.  They urge us to turn from ourselves and free us to cling to Christ.  The Lord does not forget that His suffering bought our salvation, nor does He forget that, if we endure, we will also reign with Him (II Tim. 2:12).  It is His gracious will to allow us to experience testing for a few short years that we may fully enjoy His fellowship for eternity.

      There is affliction because God does not (2) forsake.  He said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Heb. 13:5b).  The Lord does not forsake us because He loves us and knows we need Him.  On the one hand, we experience persecution and affliction from the world.  “And you will be hated by all because of My name“ (because he does not forsake us) (Lk. 21:17).  And “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b).  On the other hand, God faithfully wounds us that we might be kept in His will—the only place of blessing and reward.  To some degree, like Paul, we are “always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus” (II Cor. 4:10a).  The Lord does not forsake; rather, He continues to give us these dyings “so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (v. 10b).  Afflictions are evidences of His loving presence.

      There is affliction because God does not (3) fail.  “Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you” (Josh. 1:5b).  That promise to Joshua is true for us as well.  The Lord does not fail in anything—in providing us with blessing and in providing us with continuing trials and chastening.  For He knows that the hotter the fire and the greater the pressure, the purer becomes the diamond pressed from the coal.  Moreover, He knows that when we are tried, we will, like Job, come forth as gold (Job 23:10b).  The Lord does not fail:  He has promised to present us before the throne without spot or blemish.  In order to do that, He has provided us with a new nature (wrought by God’s penalty on our sin paid for by Christ), and is purging us of our carnality through trials.

      And while it may seem sometimes as if there is no rest on any side, that is completely true only for the sinner.  For he has trials without peace, and afflictions without comfort, and judgment without redemption.   Yet, even for the sinner, there is salvation in tribulation if he will turn to Christ.  For the saint, however, though there is trouble on every hand, that trouble remains outside because we have Christ within—the One who is called Comforter and the Prince of Peace.  We are exercised by travail in order to burn away the dross of false peace and spurious joy that we might be filled with all true peace and pure joy in Christ.

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