Everyone, at some point in life, has experienced some sort of trial, tribulation, difficult circumstance, or affliction. No matter what you call it... a trial, as I will refer to it, can come in many ways. We can be tried in the areas of finances, health, material possessions, and many other ways. Often when trials come, we find ourselves fretting, worrying, overwhelmed…all out of sorts. Sometimes frustration and even anger results in us from our trials.
I am going through such a time as I write. I have noticed my reaction to it has not been the same as David’s. David was known as a man after God’s own heart. He was a godly man who meditated in the Scriptures regularly. He often found himself in the midst of trials. In Psalm 119:71 he said…
Psalm 119:71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted;
I don’t ever remember saying that it was good for me that I am going through a trial. Why not? How could David say as much? What did he know that I don’t? What about the Apostle James, the half brother of Jesus Christ, who wrote in James 1:2… My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations? Then there is the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans who writes…“we glory in tribulations also”, and of course the Apostle Peter who encourages those going through fiery trials to rejoice. How did these men find joy in the midst of their tribulations? How could they encourage others do so? How can we have joy in our tribulations?
I’m glad you asked! The answer is in the Word of God. God preserved for us His Holy Word for a purpose…
Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we throughpatience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
One purpose that God preserved His Word for us is that we may learn from it. What can we learn from the word of God?
First we learn there is no escaping trials and tribulations…
John 16:33 These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have
Psalm 34:19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivers them out of them all.
We who are the children of God, who have been saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, will have trials and tribulations. That is why Peter tells us not to think it’s strange when we find ourselves in a trial…
1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strangething happened to you:
We are going to have trials. Aren’t you glad that is not where the Word of God leaves off?! Yes we shall have tribulation, but we can be of good cheer because our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has overcome the world. As if that wasn’t enough to cheer a Christian in the midst of a trial, David tells us that the Lord delivers them out of them all.
Not only has Christ overcome the world, but He also delivers His children out of every trial they go through. I guess you could say that the Second thing we learn from the word of God is the One who overcame the world is the One who delivers us out of our trials. What does that do to your heart? Do you feel a little rejoicing coming on?
The Lord has many purposes for the trials we go through. Sometimes it may be to chasten us for our disobedience.
Hebrews 12:6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
We can be joyful in this type of trial knowing that we are His and that He chastens us for our profit that we might be partakers of His holiness. What does that do for your heart?!
The purpose of every trial is not to chasten us. At other times we are tried because it just may be the only way we will truly learn the word of God.
Psalm 119:71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
We can read the word of God all day long and even memorize it, but we may never truly understand God’s heart in it until we go through a trial and experience Him through it. We can read that the LORD delivers them out of them all, in reference to trials, but until we go through a trial and experience God delivering us from one, we will not fully understand that verse.
Another purpose God has for our trial is to strengthen our faith. I need not take you there, but remember Abraham and how God told him to sacrifice Isaac the promised son. That was a test or a trial to show Abraham that his faith in the Lord was strong. God already knew what Abraham would do. Abraham didn’t know. Abraham may have been remembering all the times he didn’t trust God (told everyone his wife was his sister, tried to help God by having Ishmael.) and maybe he wondered how strong his faith was. Through this trial Abraham’s faith in the Lord was strengthened (Genesis 22:9-12 / Hebrews 11:17-19).
God revealed something else to us about trials as the Holy Spirit inspired James, Peter and Paul to write letters to the persecuted Christians who had been scattered throughout the Roman Empire. James writes…
James 1:1-41 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad,
2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire lacking nothing.
God reveals that another purpose He has for the trials we go through is to produce patience. That word patience could also be thought of as endurance.
The writer of Hebrews in Chapter 12:1 likens this life to a race. He tells us to lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily beset us and let us run…how are we to run the race that is set before us? We are to run it with patience or endurance. How will our endurance be built up? It is built up through the trials we go through. James tells us in chapter 1 and verse 4 to let patience have her perfect work. Let endurance have its maturing work.I have noticed in preparing to run a 10K race, it takes endurance. Endurance is something that has to be built up and the only way to do that is to run. Trainers and coaches know what it takes to get a runner ready to run a race in a certain amount of time. Each workout is a trial. The trainer pushes his runner in every workout. Some workouts are more strenuous than others, but each one is designed with the intent of building endurance and making the runner faster.
In a way I see our Lord as doing the same thing for us spiritually as He takes us through the trials we face. He is building our endurance for the future. Paul the Apostle agrees as seen in his letter to the church at Rome.
Romans 5:3-53 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost
which is given unto us.
Paul knew that trials produce endurance and the endurance produces experience and experience produces hope and hope maketh not ashamed.
I used to run a lot and train for races. At the end of my training for a 10K I was running 10 mile runs on my high mileage days. All that training (trials) produced endurance. That endurance produced experience. I knew that I can run the distance necessary to complete the 10K race which is 6.2 miles. The experience produced hope. Daniel Webster says that "hope" is the desire of some good, accompanied with at least a slight expectation of obtaining it, or a belief that it is obtainable. Hope differs from wish and desire in this...hope implies some expectation of obtaining the good desired, or the possibility of possessing it. Hope therefore always gives pleasure or joy; whereas wish and desire may produce or be accompanied with pain and anxiety.I could wish all day long I could run a 10K and never get off the couch. I will never run it. I could desire to run a 10K in under 50 minutes and yet never properly train for it. I would always wonder will I be able to do it? There is the anxiety and doubt. But when I have been properly trained and have endurance and the experience of running the distance, I have the hope or the excited expectation of obtaining it. I believed that running a 10K in under 50 minutes was obtainable to me. How much more true is this principle in our spiritual lives?
Another purpose God has for a trial is to cause us to realize our frailty and cry out to Him. All of the men I have mentioned were mighty men of God and yet they were men of like passions as we are. They had that sin nature to deal with just as we do. Most trials reveal to us our weaknesses. Most often they involve circumstances that we have no control over. In them we see our need of God.
As I said earlier, David was a man after God’s own heart, the apple of God’s eye and still he often found himself in dire straits. In many of the Psalms he wrote, he cried out to God in desperation. He was cast down in spirit. He was depressed. Though his trials or circumstances had him down, notice what he did…He cried out to the Lord.
Psalm 34:15 The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.
Psalm 61:1-21 Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.
2 From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart it overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is
higher than I.
Psalm 4:1 HEAR me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress;have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.
The Third thing we have learned from the word of God concerning trials is that God has a purpose in them. He uses them to chasten us, to teach us the Word of God, to strengthen our faith…just as a muscle that is not exercised will grow weak, faith that is not exercised will grow week. He uses trials to build endurance in us so that we persevere to the end…so we finish the race that has been set before us. Finally, God uses trials at times to drive us to cry out to him.
Our Lord knows how to train us and prepare us for what lies ahead. Trials aren't necessarily "fun" to go through. Just like training for a race isn't fun at the time. The same is true when we go through our trials. At the time it's no fun, our trials may even seem to last forever, but when the future becomes the present we will have endurance to be able to run the race.
As we go through trials, think of them as our training runs. The Lord is training us in order to build our endurance. He is giving us experience as we go through our trials and that experience will result in our hope in Him. When we are in the middle of our next trial we will have that excited expectation of obtaining more Christ-likeness. Like David in Psalm 42, we will say "O God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember Thee." We will remember previous trials and how the Lord brought us through them...how He showed Himself strong on our behalf and we will say as he did... "Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance."What does that do for your heart? Once you’ve been through a trial and look back at it, the trial didn't seem so hard after all. Paul, who suffered many things for Christ’s sake counted his sufferings as light afflictions.
2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding aneternal weight of glory;
We can only see our afflictions as being light when we view them with God’s purposes in mind. When we next go through a trial may we consider it in the light of Romans 8:28.Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God to them who are the
called according to his purpose.
Trials are not fun to go through, neither are they easy. Yet, we can have joy knowing that Christ overcame the world and is the One who delivers us out of every trial. We can have joy knowing that He loves us and wants us to learn His word. We can have joy knowing that we are His and that He is using our trial to correct us, strengthen us, build our endurance, give us experience, cause us to hope in Him…essential to mold us and shape us into the image of Christ. Finally we can joy knowing with eternity in view, our trials are light afflictions, last but for a moment (compared to eternity), and produce for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
With these truths and thoughts in mind may we face our next trial with the strong faith Abraham had when asked to sacrifice his son Isaac.