It’s been said that either you have just come out of a trial, are presently in a trial, or are about to go through one. Trials expose our hearts. They remove the dross from our lives–those things which keep us from bringing glory to God as we should. But there are things we need to understand about trials and our responses.
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Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: Coming Forth as Gold
We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” In earlier posts we covered anger, depression, fear, worry, and guilt. If you missed any of them, just click on the link. You’ll find them all there.
Last week we talked about how God uses tests, trials, and suffering in our lives as a divine squeeze to let us and others see what’s in our hearts. We looked at biblical and unbiblical perspectives on tests and trials and God’s purposes in them. I hope you’ll take the time to read it if you haven’t, especially, if you’re going through a challenging time.
Today we’ll talk about our responses to tests and trials, how we can please Him during those difficult times, how we become like Christ as a result, and the resources God has given us.
Coming Forth as Gold
Nothing exposes our hearts as much as trials do. When trouble hits us, it’s easy to see the areas where we’re not fully committed to and trusting in God. But God doesn’t allow tests and trials to trip us up or so He can point His finger at us. God allows, even designs, trials to strengthen and purify us. Job said, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, NASB).
But, as I pointed out last week, we sometimes have unbiblical perspectives regarding trials and suffering. We can believe:
- That they’re always our fault.
- That they’re always the other person’s fault. We can have a “victim” mentality.
- That they’re no one’s fault. This is divine fatalism.
- That they’re God’s fault. He causes everything, even sin.
- Or the Deistic view—that God isn’t involved in it at all. This is the belief that God created everything, but now He just stands back and watches without getting involved.
Then we looked at some biblical perspectives on trials and suffering:
- That they’re ultimately the result of the Adam’s fall (Gen 3).
- That God is the remote cause. In other words, He allows them, but He’s never the cause of our sin.
- That God is sovereign and He works all things according to His plan and purpose, including trials and suffering.
- That they’re always for God’s glory and our eternal good, even though God may temporarily set aside our happiness to accomplish something greater.
So, since God has allowed whatever we’re experiencing and it’s for our good, how should we respond?
Responding to Tests & Trials
It’s important to understand that we’re accountable for our responses no matter how we feel. We’re to respond in ways that please God. That should be our goal in life no matter what our circumstances.
9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5.9-10).
While it may be easy to justify wrong responses, God gives us the grace to respond rightly.
No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10.13).
We shouldn’t pray to just “hang in there” or somehow get through trials and suffering. We should ask God to help us grow in the midst of the difficulty and to become more like Christ (Rom 8.28-29; Jas 1.2-4).
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (Jas 1.2-4).
While we may not always rejoice in the suffering itself, we can rejoice in the fact that a sovereign God can work through the trial.
Most of us can look back and see how God has used other trials for our good and how we’ve grown in our faith and trust in Him, not in spite of trials, but because of them.
So, what are some of the specific reasons God allows trials and sufferings?
Some of the “Why’s”
While we need to be careful of demanding to know “why,” there are some why’s God has revealed in His Word.
- Because of unconfessed sin (1 Cor. 11.30; 2 Kings 5.15-27).
In talking about the Lord’s supper in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul said:
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.
The Lord’s supper is a time to remember what Christ did and a reminder of the importance of examining ourselves, but self-examination is something we should do on a regular basis.
Because the people had failed to do so and to confess and forsake sin, many were sick, some had died, and some were “weak.” That word weak means, “having a propensity for sickness.” We might say “sickly.”
Of course, we need to use caution when viewing the suffering of others. We can’t assume they are guilty of sin. That was the problem with Job’s counselors.
- God sometimes uses suffering to chastise His children (Ps. 119.67; Heb. 12.5-11).
5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
“ My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
6 For whom the LORD loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”
7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
In Psalm 119.67 the psalmist said:
Before I was afflicted I went astray,
But now I keep Your word.
- To increase our usefulness. He’s pruning us so we will bear more fruit (Jn. 15.2; 2 Cor. 1.3-9; 2 Pet. 1.5-8).
Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit (Jn. 15.2).
- To help us realize this isn’t heaven, that we live in a fallen world, and to encourage us to long for heaven (Gen. 3.8-19; Rom. 8.22-24).
Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body (Rom. 8.23).
- To show us that other people’s sins have an effect on us and that our sins have an effect on others (Eph. 6.4; Josh. 7; Jonah 1).
Over and over in the Old Testament when the Israelites suffered defeat at the hands of their enemies, God revealed sin in the camp.
When Jonah disobeyed God all the sailors on the ship were affected.
Paul warned parents in Ephesians, “… do not provoke your children to anger …” (Eph. 6.4). Our harsh and sinful treatment can be a stumbling block to our children.
- To allow us to experience the natural consequences of our sin (Gal. 6.7-8; Prov. 5.22).
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life (Gal. 6.7-8).
22 His own iniquities entrap the wicked man,
And he is caught in the cords of his sin (Prov. 5.22).
- To teach us about our own weakness and cause us to depend on God (2 Cor. 1.8-9; 12.7-10).
8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. 9 Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead (2 Cor. 1.8-9).
- To help us realize that we have placed our hope in something besides God (1 Pet. 1.13; Heb. 6.19).
It often takes a trial to reveal that fact even to us.
- To help us understand and appreciate His sufficiency (2 Cor. 4.7; 12.7-10).
7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us (2 Cor. 4.7).
- To strengthen and test our faith (1 Pet. 1.6-7; 4.12).
6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1.6-7).
- To create opportunities to witness for Christ (Phil. 1:12-14; 2:14-15).
12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear (Phil. 1.12-14).
Paul was in prison, chained to 2 guards. His chains provided him with a captive audience, not only to what he might share with them, but they had a front row seat to see his life.
My chains or yours might be a hospital bed, being home with small children, a job we don’t like, neighbors who are difficult, or an unsaved spouse. All of our circumstances, including our trials, provide us with opportunities to share Christ.
In fact, trials and suffering provide us with some of the greatest ones. It’s easy to praise God when life is good, but people know there’s something different about us if we trust Him when life is hard.
14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world (Phil. 2.14-15).
- To develop Christlike character (Jas. 1:2-5).
- To cause us to recognize our need for one another and to draw us closer together (1 Cor. 12:25; Rom. 12:15; Gal. 6:2).
2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal. 6.2).
- To bring glory to Himself (Jn. 9:1-7; Job 1-2; 1 Cor. 1:26-31).
Everyone who is called by My name,
Whom I have created for My glory;
I have formed him, yes, I have made him” (Is. 43.7).
Hope for Believers in Trials
- We can know that the Father is sovereignly carrying out His will for our lives, and His will is good, perfect and acceptable (Rom. 8:28-29; 12:2).
- Jesus Christ is praying on our behalf (Jn. 17:20-21; Heb. 4:14-16).
- His Holy Spirit is indwelling us (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
- Knowing there is no temptation too powerful (1 Cor. 10:13) and His grace is always sufficient (2 Cor. 12:7-10).
- He’s given us the local church (Rom. 12; Heb. 10:24-25; Matt. 18:15-20).
- The fact that this life is relatively short (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
- Heaven is our eternal home and it is sure (Jn. 14:1-3; Heb. 6:19).
- Christ will return soon (1 Pet. 1:13).
God allows tests, trials and suffering in our lives, but He is never apart from them. He’s sovereignly involved bringing about our greatest good and His glory. And He’s given us His Word, His Holy Spirit, the privilege of prayer, the local church, and one another to strengthen us along the way.
2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
Some Other Resources for You:
A Path Through Suffering, by Elisabeth Elliot
How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil by D. A. Carson
How to Handle Trouble by Jay Adams
The Power of Suffering: Strengthening Your Faith in the Refiner’s Fire by John MacArthur, Jr.
Trusting God by Jerry Bridges
When Trouble Comes by Jim Berg
Why Does God Allow Suffering? by Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Next week … honestly, I’m not sure what we’ll be talking about, but since it’s God’s Word, He’ll have something to show us! 🙂 Be sure to add your email here so you don’t miss out.
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