Are you a Christian? Have you confessed your sins and repented of them, and asked God’s forgiveness by the power of the blood of Jesus Christ? If you have been saved, then you can rest confidently that God wants what is best for you. God wants what is best for you even more than you want what is best for you. The thing that we must learn – sometimes painfully – is that often times we do not know what is best for us. Thankfully, God does.
Scripture teaches us the primary desire of God for our lives, His will for our lives:
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification…”
– 1 Thess 4.3
Sanctification is a big, theological and heady word which is not typically on the forefront of our minds when we consider our life choices and decision making. Sanctification is the ongoing process of salvation by which we are being made more like Jesus and less like the world. It is getting to know God more fully, and in response putting to death the deeds of the flesh. It is becoming Heaven-minded and not worldly minded. It is our Spiritual maturation process. So, in short, it is God’s will that we mature and grow Spiritually. Paul explains what sanctification looks like for the Church at Thessalonica and for us, at least in part:
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.”
– 1 Thess 4.3-7
The Thessalonians needed instruction and discipline in their sexuality and relationship with one another. Throughout Scripture we see more exhaustive lists of the sins and deeds that God hates, i.e. Gal 5.19-20. But Paul summarizes His teaching simply, “God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification”. This is God’s will for us. And if we have begun the walk of the Christian life, if we have recognized and begun to confess our sins, then we also should be growing in our hatred for and conviction of sin and desiring to become more like Christ. Our will should also be our sanctification.
That is the best for us.
We also can claim the promise of Scripture that if we have begun that walk with the Lord, He will complete it in us:
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
– Phil 1.6
When we come to God for salvation through Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit takes up residence within our lives and begins the process of Sanctification from within. We then get to practice dying to the flesh and letting Him live through us. He is at work within us, and He will complete the work of sanctification.
“…for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
– Phil 2.13
So if we know that Scripture teaches us clearly that God’s will is for our sanctification, for us to become more like Jesus, and that He promises to complete that work in our lives, we can know fully that all things will work out for our best:
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
– Rom 8.28
Our best, however, is rarely what we desire in our hearts. Consider the things you long for, work for, and pray for. Do you desire a nice house? A new car? Nice clothes? Fancy food? Do you desire to have a consistent life that is not interrupted? A schedule that makes sense and allows for the right amount of sleep, exercise and socializing? Do you pray for good health? For people around you to live forever? For your children to be perfectly behaved? Do you pray for those things that are making you uncomfortable to be taken away?
These things are not bad in and of themselves. Jesus, in fact, promises rest and peace to those who come to Him (Matt 11.28-29). He desires to give us peace and rest. But have you ever reflected on a season of peace and rest and said, “I grew so much during that time”, or “My faith is at a place it has never been before”. No, you have not. And do you know why? Because God knows that our faith only grows and is refined through testing – through the fire.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
– James 1.2-4
“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
– Rom 5.1-5
We grow in sanctification, we mature, and we develop perseverance, character and hope through suffering and trials. It is after a season of tremendous difficulty and suffering that believers look back and are amazed at the faithfulness of God and the development of their faith. Faith is not developed by comfortable lives, it is developed by relying on God through the storm.
Think about it this way: If sanctification is becoming more like Jesus, should we not expect to live the kind of life that Jesus did? Jesus had no house, no earthly possessions and treasures. He lived a life fully devoted to God, and He suffered hatred, persecution and death on a cross because of it. Jesus Himself said,
“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.”
– John 15.20
Non believers hated and persecuted Jesus. If we are becoming more like Jesus, non believers will hate and persecute us as well. We also know that Jesus, in His greatest hour of suffering, asked God to take away the suffering, but God did not:
“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”
– Luke 22.42
Have you ever been in the midst of suffering and begged God to take it from you? And He chose not to? What was the result? Did you ultimately grow and mature in your faith? Or did you become embittered and resent God for the trial? If you are a servant of Jesus, you can expect great suffering. And you can expect that God will bring about your sanctification – your best – through it.
For four years I lived a life that many thought was one that required great faith. I loved the opportunity to serve, and relished every moment of it. It was indeed a life the required much sacrifice and conviction, but because of the desires God had placed in my heart it required minimal faith in the sense of perseverance through trial and testing. Then God rocked my world and completely changed my life’s trajectory. I then was forced to live a life that few would consider a life that requires much faith, but for me – because of those convictions and desires I have – it requires a daily submission and new step of faith. And I can honestly look back on the last three years and see immensely more faith, trust and hope developed than in the four years before.
God is testing my faith. And I am thankful that I can see growth through it. I am also thankful that I know it means He is working in me, for my best, and for my sanctification.
We naturally want what is easiest and what feels the best. But God has promised to develop faith and Spiritual maturity in His children. And the way He does that is by testing and refining our faith through the fire of tribulation and suffering. He wants what is best for you more than you want it for yourself, and He knows what is best for you – much more clearly than you know. Are you in a season of peace and comfort right now? Or is your faith being refined? Can you look back over your life and see those seasons of testing and purification? Or have you lived a relatively comfortable life that required little faith? Trust God. Know that He tested Jesus and even asked Jesus to surrender His desires and will. Know that we, as Jesus’ servants, are not greater than our master and that we will be hated, persecuted, and tested by God. And if you have not, then I would go back to the foundation and see if you have surrendered your life to God and asked for salvation.
He will work the best out for you. And it will be through discipline and testing. Trust Him through it, and you will be amazed at how you grow.