“And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging (commanding) the jailor to keep them safely: Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.”Acts 16:23-24
I was ready to teach a lesson on this verse for Sunday school recently when a woman approached me just before class and told me something I was not expecting. She asked me, “Have you ever felt like life seemed unbearable and you wished you were not here?” I believe she asked me in a rhetorical way, and I looked at her not knowing what to say, but tried to relay empathy in my body language and my heart went out to her. She reassured me it would get better and told me she was heading home to deal with some things. I did not believe she was in danger of any kind, but she certainly had some heavy issues on her heart. She did not know I would be talking about this passage, but I believe God used this interaction right before the lesson for me to use it and apply it appropriately. We are all put in those “hot water” situations of life, whether they be of our own doing or a trial God has allowed in our life.
I tend to call these situations “sanctification tests” as I sometimes do not pass the trials God allows in my life. Our faith is tested from day to day, and we do not always act appropriately or in a godly way when faced with these situations. Our Christianity and testimony is put to the test when things do not go as planned, and even more so when they go in a way that is less than desirable. It could be the death of someone close to us or it could be the lack of a job or the loss of our health. There are also smaller tests such as someone cutting us off in traffic, poor service at a restaurant, or a family member treating us in a way that we feel is unjust. The rubber meets the road in our Christian life in the way we react to these situations. Will we please God with our reactions or will we demand our rights and curse God like Job’s wife advised him to do? The hot water puts us at the cross roads, and what is truly in us will come out.
We tend to be confused at our negative reactions to the hot water situations, but the hot water only draws out what is already in us. Since the beginning of time we have sought to blame others, much like Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent. We cannot blame anyone for our sin as the tea bag represents all the corruptness and sin within us. I know I must be in my Bible and prayed up or I will have no chance on those “pop sanctification quizzes and tests”. My wife can attest to my many failures on these tests and quizzes, and I strive to work on the “tea bag” of my heart. I know I must fill it with the things of God or eventually the bad things (sin) I have harbored in my life will come out in the hot water situations. I have not always done well with feedback when it is negative, but God is helping me in this way as I seem to be getting more of it on a daily basis.
I faced a heavy work day recently and my wife stopped by my desk and we prayed together to ask God for wisdom, guidance and patience for what we were facing that day. I did not realize it, but my boss had scheduled a meeting with me to go over a negative survey submitted by a member in regards to a poor experience they had received. She buttered me up early in the conversation by saying some nice things about me and then gave me the bad news at the end. I was not fazed by this as my tea bag was ready, and she even told me in the end that our executive director made a comment that I take feedback well and do not make excuses but take ownership of the feedback given. I can only attribute this to God’s work in my life as I can assure you this was not always the case. You need only go back a few job and bosses ago and they would not recognize the person my current boss was talking about.
Are you facing a hot water situation? Is your tea bag ready for the hot water that will be coming? Do you blame others for your negative and sinful actions, or do you desire God to change your “tea bag”? Will your actions be pleasing to God? The true test of our sanctification is found in the hot water situations of life. It is easy to be spiritual when everything goes well, but how we act in stressful situations will only reveal the good or bad in our hearts, depending on what we have been filling our tea bag with. May we exhibit godliness when placed in the hot waters of life, and may the world see God in us when it matters most.