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Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: The Divine Squeeze
We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” In earlier posts we have covered anger, depression, fear, worry, and guilt. If you missed any of them, just click on the link.
Today we’ll look at tests and trials.
The Divine Squeeze
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 a trial. That thought can stop us in our tracks, because we don’t like trials. At least I don’t and I don’t think I’m alone.
But God uses tests, trials, and suffering in our lives as a divine squeeze to let us and others see what’s in our hearts. J.C. Ryle said, “What you are in the day of trial, that you are and nothing more.” Trials show us what we are really made of!
That may be a little discouraging if you didn’t do so well in a trial or aren’t handling one well right now, but God is a God of second and third chances. That’s good news and bad. The good news is He keeps working with us. The bad news is He keeps working with us. That means when we don’t handle a trial well, He’ll give us another chance either by extending the trial we’re in or bringing another one designed to work on the same heart issue.
Many times I’ve seen someone file for an unbiblical divorce only to find themselves a few years down the road married to someone with the same issues. The world has come up with all kinds of psychological explanations for it, but I don’t believe God will set us free from those patterns until we learn to respond in a Christlike way to the present situation.
My husband spoke with a friend of his one day. His friend was complaining about a situation that was stretching his patience. He commented that God was always allowing something in his life to make him more patient. My husband’s response, “Maybe it’s time to learn what He’s trying to show you!”
Whether it’s loving our spouses biblically, growing in patience, kindness or unselfishness, learning to truly forgive, or some other area of life, our Divine Teacher, the Holy Spirit is well able to design the right teaching opportunity and homework.
But God also uses tests and trials to remove the dross from our lives–those things which keep us from bringing as much glory to God as we should! He wants us to be able to say, like Job, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, NASB).
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 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. 15.1-2).
Unbiblical Perspectives about Tests & Trials
When we are going through trials and sufferings we can easily develop wrong perspectives about the nature of and reason for them. Here are some of those unbiblical perspectives:
It’s always my fault.
Or it’s always the fault of anyone going through a trial. This was the problem with Job’s comforters.
If you were pure and upright,
Surely now He would awake for you,
And prosper your rightful dwelling place (Job 8.6).
The disciples, mistakenly, believed the same thing:
1 Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him (Jn. 9.1-3).
Sometimes things happen that are not a direct result of personal sin. You could be driving responsibly and be hit by a drunk driver. You could be a faithful employee, yet your company is sold and you lose your job.
It’s always someone else’s fault.
Other people have a “victim” mentality about our tests and trials. As we’ve talked about in some of the earlier posts in this series, we’re good at blame-shifting. It’s my spouse’s fault, my boss’ fault …” No matter how irresponsible we have been, we blame someone else.
It’s no one’s fault.
We’ve all seen the bumper sticker: “S_ _ _ happens!” This is fatalism.
We’re not just the victim of some random cosmic joke! God is the author and originator of everything in our lives. He is either the proximate or immediate cause or He is the remote or distant cause, that is He allowed it to happen for our good and His glory. Nothing happens by accident.
A deistic view of God’s involvement in our tests and trials.
This is the idea that God created everything, but now He just stands back and watches without getting involved.
So what does the Bible teach about tests and trials?
10 Biblical Facts about Tests & Trials
1. We all experience trials and sufferings.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16.33).
2. Ultimately, trials are the result of the fall.
I’m glad for Adam and Eve that there are no guilt trips in heaven, because everything goes back to the fall (Gen. 3).
3. God is always the remote (distant) cause of trials and suffering.
He allows us to make choices, but only when those choices are in keeping with His sovereign will.
4. God is never the author of sin.
Even though He allows us to make choices, He never causes or tempts us to sin.
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (Jas. 1.13-18).
5. God is sovereign.
So, everything is planned by Him and, ultimately, goes according to how He decrees it to go.
In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1.11).
9 Remember the former things of old,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like Me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things that are not yet done,
Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
And I will do all My pleasure,’
11 Calling a bird of prey from the east,
The man who executes My counsel, from a far country.
Indeed I have spoken it;
I will also bring it to pass.
I have purposed it;
I will also do it (Is. 46:9-11).
6. What God sovereignly allows includes both calamity and blessing.
42 “For thus says the LORD: ‘Just as I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will bring on them all the good that I have promised them (Jer. 32:42).
37 Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass,
When the Lord has not commanded it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
That woe and well-being proceed? (Lam. 3:37-38).
7. To say that God “allows or permits” evil does not mean that He sanctions it.
God never grants approval to our sinful choices, but when He allows us to sin He can and will use the consequences of our choices for good. And there will be consequences. Often, they’re built in (Gal. 6.7-8).
And when, He allows someone else to sin against us, He only allows it because He intends to use it for good in our lives as He conforms us to the image of His Son.
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8.28-29).
8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Phil. 3.8-10).
8. We may choose to sin or not, but God also has a choice in the matter. He always has the ability to stop us from exercising our will.
He can cause an accident or a broken traffic light or dozens of other hindrances. That means He could have stopped someone else from sinning against us, as well.
Understanding this can make all the difference in how we respond to those who hurt us and our willingness to forgive and walk in love.
19 Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good … (Gen. 50.19-20).
9. Therefore, God is never totally passive.
Even, when He seems to be passive, He is actively choosing not to intercede directly.
10. The fact that God can bring good out of evil only underscores the power and the excellence of His sovereign directive will.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns (Phil. 1.6 NLT).
God promises that He won’t allow anything in our lives that will be greater than we can handle if we keep our eyes on Him and respond His way.
The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure (1 Cor. 10.13 NLT).
Biblical Purposes in Trials and Suffering
1. They are always for God’s glory (Job 1 & 2; John 9:1-3; 1 Cor 1:26-31).
2. They are always for our eternal good (Rom 8:28-29).
3. God may choose to set aside our temporary happiness to work a more grand work for our eternal good and His glory. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10:
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
How Should Believers Respond to Tests and Trials?
Our goal in all of life, including times when we’re going through a test or a trial, is to please God (2 Cor. 5:9-10).
We shouldn’t just pray to some how get through it, but should ask God to help us grow in the midst of trials (Jas. 1.2-4; Rom. 5.3-5).
3 And not only that,but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Rom. 5.3-5).
This is one of our greatest opportunities to display what James MacDonald calls “the superiority of a life lived for Christ.”
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt. 5.16).
Next week in Our Series:
Next week we’ll talk more specifically 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 to help us deal with trials and suffering. Be sure to add your email here so you don’t miss any of them.
Coming Up in the Daily Posts:
Over the next few days in the daily posts, we’ll look at eternal security, suffering, sin, self-examination, and how to respond when life is hard and confusing. Be sure to sign up here for the daily posts, as well, so you won’t miss any of these helpful posts.
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