If you have ever lived with anticipation of an upcoming event, such as a much needed vacation, you may have engaged in some type of "countdown" activity such as keeping track of the days until you leave. Why do you do this? Isn't because of the building anticipation of how much you will get to relax, enjoy sights you haven't seen before, or experience some renewal in relationship with those you want to be closest to in life? There is no harm in anticipation as long as it is realistic and you aren't 'putting all your hope' in being a very specific way. I have gone on vacations only to find we have more than one rainy day in a row, significantly impacting the amount of outdoor time I may have desired. I have taken cruises and been unable to get of at a designated port because of choppy seas not making it safe to tender in to the dock. Anticipation is good, but we cannot be so rigid in our expectations that we cannot 'flex' when the outcome isn't exactly as we had imagined!
Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it's your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory. (I Peter 1:7)
We have expectation not because we live in some fantasy world where all things are good and life is without troubles - but because we know who it is we are walking with through this life. Indeed, God has promised a pretty awesome inheritance to his kids - a priceless inheritance. The promise of inheritance involves being kept pure and what some preachers refer to as being "un-defile" - living beyond the reach of change and decay. Oh sure, our bodies are subject to decay - we still age (some more gracefully than others)! Yet there is a promise for the exchange of this mortal body for an immortal one - that means what may be subject to decay now will one day be above that limitation.
The test of our faith is really a necessary part of our life with God - not because God doesn't love us enough to keep us safe and free of some hard stuff, but because he loves us so much that he wants us to grow through the hard stuff. A test of faith really does two things - it reveals the strength of that faith and it reveals the purity of that commitment we have made to serve God. Our walk with Christ requires faith - not a stagnant faith, but a vital and growing faith. The 'fire' in the furnace is what will bring change to those affected by the furnace. The heat emitted warms the room, taking away the chill of winter some may experience. The intensity of the fire's heat may be elevated to the point of bringing water to a boil, making it possible to steep the tea that would otherwise not be enjoyed. The furnace changes whatever it touches - the trial isn't about pain - it is about change!
There is a concept taught in scripture - it is referred to as "walking worthy". So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. (I Peter 1:14-15) There is a clarity of thought - not simply moving through life trying to rationalize everything we are facing, but a true seeking to understand and then the ability to remain unhindered in our thinking. This ability to walk worthy is hinged on one important concept - the ability to exercise a little self-control. This is much more than will-power that I am referring to here. It is the ability (which always begins with the willingness) to be in control of our own appetites and desires. We cannot walk worthy if we are always living as we want in the moment. When we are always living for the moment, we miss the plan for the future, for those around us, for those who are affected by our "living". Obedience is foundational to this walk - it is perhaps the most important aspect of "walking worthy" that we struggle with. We might be "willing" to be in control of our appetites and desires, but it quite a challenge to be continually exercising the "ability" to be so!
Obedience is really incremental. I am not saying it can be parceled out into moments when you choose to obey and others when you live as you want. What I am referring to is "baby steps" toward incremental change until our belief and character aligns. We make little steps in the right direction until we are found completely obedient. We sometimes struggle the most with this idea of obedience because we see the finished picture without seeing the process of how that picture was developed! A photographer will be able to tell about the slow process of developing a picture - it goes through several different processes until finally it resembles the finished product. The same is true with us in this walk with Christ - we are in the process of change all through our lives! We have to go through the processes before we can be a finished product! Even in this day and age of "instant everything", there is still a process from point A to point B. We still must put the food on a microwavable plate, endure the two minutes for the product to cook, and then serve it up! We can get "quick" development in our lives, but it may not completely resemble the "finished product" that God really intends for us. Sometimes, the long process of preparation produces the closest example of the image of God in our lives! Just sayin!