Being freshly engaged, parting with my shiny and pretty ring for 2 months in the African bush was not the easiest thing I've ever done. We bought a $5 cheapo ring at Claire's as a stand-in while I spent my summer on the dusty roads of Boubon, and D kept the "real" ring to get it re-adjusted and cleaned. Although the cheap ring worked for a time, fulfilling its purpose of warding off all the overeager mothers hoping to marry their sons to a thriving American lady, it soon began to disappoint. The sweat, dirt, and grittiness of bush life wore the silver paint off my poor little ring, exposing its black and corroding core on my little ring finger. Soon, although the African women knew I was taken, they would look at my ring judgmentally as if to say "your fiancee gave you that?" The ring grossed me out so much by the end of the summer that I almost took it off. Needless to say, I anxiously awaited getting that shiny real ring back at the Louisville airport!
When Dave presented the engagement ring to me once again at the airport, I was surprised at how different the rings really were! The corrosion of my $5 ring looked even grosser and dirtier when placed next to my clean, brilliant, genuine diamond ring. The allure of a cheap imitation is temporary. In the end, although fooled for some time, the imitation will corrode away and reveal its true framework.
Cheap imitations- isn't that what we're all about? If it looks just like the designer stuff, but costs less, why get the real thing? When it comes to faith, this just doesn't cut it. Not only should our faith be genuine, but it will even be refined when harsh conditions come around:
"In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith- of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire- may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed..." -1 Peter 1:6-7
The Devil lures us into the trap of believing that faith is a mushy-gushy feeling that comes with knowing that God will never let anything bad happen to us. Even as a Christian, I am tempted to offer up "bargains" to God- things like "you give me ___ and I will do my best to serve You more" or "please make ____ go away so that my life can be a little easier... I know You can do it because You are God and You can do anything!" We minimize our faith to merely asking for a picture-perfect life from a Great Giver, offering nothing but a quick prayer of "thanks" in return. It seems attractive, safe, and comforting- but it is merely a cheap imitation of the rich & genuine faith God actually promises! This faith that we profess is a costly faith, indeed, but comes with rich rewards that are so, so worth it. Though sorrow lasts for the night, joy comes in the morning.
The faith that God promises to refine & reward is not easy to receive with open hands. "Suffering grief" and "refining" are not terms of comfort, but of discipline. While we are here on earth, we will constantly walk through the fire- but it will be proved genuine and able to withstand on the day that Christ returns for us!
What kind of faith will you choose? We will buckle and fall if we create a faith that is only founded on sunshine and butterflies. Although it seems like a good idea, like the real thing, and may even look like the shiny ring I bought at Claire's, the harsh sand & winds of the world will soon wipe away the silver paint to reveal a corrupt lie from Satan. But if we choose to instead trade in all we have for a faith that is as shiny & genuine as the ring I have on my left hand, we will thrive in the brilliance of Christ in Heaven one day after His return. The real thing is what lasts- don't be fooled by a cheap imitation.