Tests and trials: no one likes them. We don’t pray for them. In fact, we pray to avoid them. But trials come to everyone. So, what is it that sustains us in trials? What gives us hope? You might be surprised.
Also, read about the quality of friendship. You see, common friends are … well … common. They are ordinary and unexceptional. They are the norm. But uncommon friends … are rare blessings from God! What is the quality of your friendship? Does it focus on what the other person can do for you? Or are you focused on loving others and being a godly friend?
Esther 7 & 8
Hope in Trials & Uncommon Friends
Saved by Grace and Kept by Grace
In the previous chapters Paul explained salvation by grace—how God saves sinners through the free gift of salvation based on our faith in Christ. Here in chapter 5 Paul explains how, as sinners saved by God’s grace, we are kept by the same grace—how it is God and God alone who is able to present us, “faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). No amount of good works could save us and no amount of good works can keep us! I hope you’ll take the time to read this chapter for yourself, if you haven’t already.
The Gospel: Our Hope in Trials
But let’s take a closer look at the first five verses:
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Verse 8 goes on:
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
You may have heard the expression, “Preach the gospel to yourself.” Have you thought about what that means? We typically think of the gospel as a one-time thing, something we accept once and then move on to Christian living. But we need the gospel everyday. A true understanding of all that the gospel encompasses makes living the Christian life a joy. It’s what sustains us in trials and encourages us when we fail.
We need to remind ourselves that God loved us even while we were still sinners. Christ died for us knowing full well every sin we would ever commit and every time we would reject Him. If we understand that He loved us then, we will better trust that He won’t reject us when we fail.
He died for every sin whether committed before and after we come to know Him. Rather than giving us a license to sin, fully comprehending that should help us to love Him back, desire to live to please Him, and to love others with the same kind of love.
We love Him because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4.19).
But don’t miss verses 3-5. As we come to fully understand the gospel, we can trust God when we’re going though a trial. We should remind ourselves that the God who loved us enough to die for us, will not allow any test or trial in our lives that He won’t use for our good. We can trust Him to walk through it will us, to sustain and strengthen us, to grow our faith, and to help us mature to become more and more like His Son.
Common or Uncommon?
Two of the words used to define “common” are ordinary and unexceptional. But what does an “uncommon” or true friend look like? How does he speak? What are her motives?
Verse 11 says:
“He who loves purity of heart and has grace on his lips, the king will be his friend.”
This verse reminds me of a book I read many years ago called Uncommon Friends about a man by the name of James Newton who became friends with Thomas Edison, Charles Lindbergh, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and others because of the quality of his friendship.
What is the quality of your friendship? Does it focus on what the other person can do for you? Or are you focused on loving others and being a godly friend? Do you have “purity of heart” and “grace on your lips”?
Being an uncommon friend doesn’t mean constantly flattering the other person. In fact, Proverbs 27. 6 says the opposite:
“Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”
Someone who is “pure in heart” wants the best for his or her friend. Sometimes that means “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4.15). But being “pure in heart” also means being willing to sacrifice for your friend. Sometimes real friendship is inconvenient, but when you love someone, it’s not a burden.
What is the quality of your words to and about your friends? Are they full of God’s grace and mercy? Or are they laced with sarcasm or harshness? Do you speak well of your friends or do you gossip and criticize?
Common friends are … well … common. They are ordinary and unexceptional. They are the norm. But uncommon friends … are rare blessings from God! They are exceptional and anything but ordinary!
Today’s Other Readings:
Esther 7 & 8:
Fear of God
In the first part of the book of Esther she is chosen to be the Queen over hundreds of other young girls. As the story unfolds we begin to see God’s purpose in it all.
In chapter 3 a wicked man named Haman hatched a plot designed to destroy all the Jews living in the kingdom. When Esther’s cousin Mordecai learned of the plot, he sent word to Esther imploring her to intervene.
Doing so was a dangerous assignment, but Mordecai’s exhortation to her included this statement in chapter 4, “… who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (v. 14).
Through her intervention, Haman’s plot is revealed, he is killed, God’s people are saved from annihilation and Mordecai is given a position of authority under the King.
The last sentence of these two chapters sums up God’s purpose in all that He does. It says:
“Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them.”
God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He desires that all would be saved and come into a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2.4). The MacArthur Daily Bible notes remind us that it wasn’t that the people in Esther’s day turned to God because they feared the Jews, but they saw that the Sovereign God they served had power and authority and their false gods did not.
What do people in the world understand about God by observing you? Do others want to have a relationship with Him because of your life?
A Heart of Wisdom
Even though the Psalmist recognized the sorrows of life apart from God in verses 7-11, he soon turned to the blessings of a life spent dependent on and trusting in Him. Because of the contrast he said:
“So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (v. 12).
He recognized the importance of seeking God’s wisdom so that we can be good stewards of our time and our troubles, learn God’s ways, and become more like Christ in the process.
To my “Uncommon Friends”:
I hope you are still enjoying these posts and that you share them on your favorite social media sites. There are so many out there who are missing the blessings of regular time spent in God’s Word, who are hurting and don’t know that the Bible has answers. I’ll never meet many of them, but they are your friends and family members. Your FB pages, Pinterest boards, and Twitter accounts can reach them. Social media can be used to do evil or it can be used to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. And if you haven’t already, please consider signing up to receive these posts by email. It would be a great encouragement to me.
And if you only visit occasionally or this is your first time, thank you!
Two great books on friendships from a biblical perspective are Sarah Zacharias Davis’ book The Friends We Keep: A Woman’s Quest for the Soul of Friendship and Dr. Amy Baker’s book Getting to the Heart of Friendships. And while, Uncommon Friends is not a Christian book, it’s well written and gives great insight into the lives of some well-known and successful men and friendship, in general. For more information click on the links.
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