In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:6-7
Genuine Faith. Genuine. Gen-yoo-in. "not counterfeit; authentic; real; free from pretense, affectation, or hypocrisy; sincere."
Free from pretense? Ouch.
I am going to admit something to you that only a few people know. Well, I think only a few people. Unless you have said something to me that is, well, boring and un-funny...then you've probably seen it. I have (shhh....) a fake smile. I do. A co-worker pointed it out to me about 15 years ago, and though I was horrified to discover that it was, indeed, true, I realized most people couldn't really tell that it wasn't sincere. But the more people get to know me, they can tell when I'm just "being polite" (that's my southern way of explaining it) or whether it's a genuine grin.
As sad as that is, I wonder how many times I've come across with an insincere faith? I wonder how many times I've said "Oh, sweetie, I'll pray for you" -- but never did. I wonder how many times I uttered a precious, "Bless your heart" but didn't really mean it. I'm fairly certain that in my 35+ years of walking with God, more than a few people have looked at me and thought I was a fake. A phony. A (gasp!) hypocrite.
If only I'd have known then what I know now. (Wasn't that a song by Toby Keith?) It takes a good amount of trial walking to come to a point where all that hypocrisy and falseness is burned away. It takes getting to the bottom of a slimy pit and wondering if there is a way out to realize that there is only ONE way, and that is through Jesus Christ. You have to reach up OUT of that mud and mire and take His hand. It is a verb. An action. It doesn't just happen, miraculously, one day when you've been a Christian for x number of years. It takes lots sweat. And even more tears.
Through the years, I've endured little trial by little trial. Don't get me wrong -- at the time, those trials seemed monumental! I remember several things in my life that sent me falling to my knees and had me begging God to help me. Often I'd find myself at a complete loss for words. I'd just fall to my knees in silence. I always have relied on the verse Romans 8:26: "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."
I think, looking back, that all those smaller trials were preparing me for what was to be, to date, my biggest trial yet. Nearly a year ago, I almost lost my sister. That single event literally rocked my world. It changed everything about me. I remember those days that I could barely speak. I remember crying -- practically screaming -- and praying and begging God to save her life. He did, by the way. :)
And it was there, somewhere in those weeks and months that followed, that I began to see glimpses of a more grown up faith. I began to know with a certainty that I didn't have before that God was indeed right here. And His promises were real. And I started to be more real. When my co-workers asked how my sister was doing, I'd tell them, and I'd tell them that I had no doubt that it was the prayers of literally hundreds of people crying out to God for her life that saved her. I began to pray for people. Not just saying "oh, I'll pray for you" but saying "can I pray for you right now?"
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are the epitome of genuine faith. In Daniel chapter 3, they refused to bow to anything or anyone other than the One True God. They knew that God *could* deliver them, but even if He didn't, they refused to bow to another god. Even if He didn't save them. And for that faith, they got tossed into a fiery furnace. What I love most about that passage of Scripture is the addition of "no smell of fire had come upon them." Isn't that great? They didn't burn up, their clothes were intact, and don't even get me started on the 4th man in the furnace!! But the boys didn't even smell of smoke! It's the small details like that that overwhelm me.
I have a long way to go before I have that kind of faith. I've pondered long and hard about what I would do in the same situation. I like to think I'd say the same thing as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But would I? If someone held a gun to my child's head and wanted me to denounce Christ, would I? Would you?
I've a long way to go....