The Christian and the Trials of Life
Dr. Valson Abraham
How should we as Christians regard such a time as this?
Some of you may have the coronavirus. Others of you may have friends or loved ones who have suffered or even died from it. Others of you have lost or are about to lose your livelihoods. Still others have faced shortages in food and other supplies. Children have been kept home from school. In some way, all of us have experienced inconveniences and discouragements we have never known before. None of us knows what the future holds.
In addition to the present trial, we experience other trials involving loss, betrayal, abuse and neglect, poverty or having too much. WWe face physical, mental and spiritual trials. Some of our trials come from natural disasters, but many come at the hands of others, or even from our own hand. Some trials may last a few minutes or hours, others may last weeks, months, years or even decades. If we do not face a trial now, we soon will.
Jesus warned His disciples that in this life we will have tribulations or trials (John 16:33). What was He talking about?
Most times, these are things we don’t like to think about. All too often, we have been conditioned to think that life with Jesus is always sweet and rosy What happens when life is not so sweet? Are our trials the result of fate or bad karma after all? Is God angry with us?
Even the best of us experience trials. Job was a righteous man, but he lost everything, including his friends, who added to his sorrows with their false accusations. Jesus Himself, a man without sin, was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” John the Baptist was imprisoned and beheaded. Paul the apostle experienced many kinds of tribulations (2 Cor. 11:16-33). The Bible is filled with accounts of suffering and persecuted saints. What do the trials of life mean for the Christian? In his first letter, Peter portrays the ideal Christian as both a person of great joy and much sorrow and grief, subject to many trials in life. These are not just chance events, but things that are allowed, and even sent, “if necessary,” by God Himself. Why does God find it “necessary?”
First and foremost, God wants to build His church whose foundation is Jesus Christ. He saves us while we are still sinners. We enter the kingdom in an imperfect and inglorious state. God allows or sends trials for at least three different reasons:
l Sometimes He chastises us for our failures. “Whom the Lord loves, He chastens,” we are told in Hebrews 12:6. David was a man after God’s own heart, yet he also became an adulterer and planned an innocent man’s death. After that gross failure of character, David had to undergo many trials and grief, especially over family matters.
Even the very best of us have glaring weak-nesses of which we should be ashamed. We may try to hide these things, but we know they are still there, and we may even try to rationalize them and say they are not as bad as they seem. In His righteous love, God must deal with these things, and our attitudes toward them, sometimes in painful ways.
The writer of Hebrews frankly tells us that no one enjoys these times of chastening. “All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11).
If we do not know the chastening of the Lord, if all continues in sweetness and light in our lives however weak our spiritual characters, we are not Christians, it is as simple as that. If we never experience trials, we should actually become very afraid. So as Christians, we should not consider life’s trials as the signs of bad karma or bad luck or God’s inexplicable anger.
l Sometimes God allows trials in life to prepare us for a higher task in the future, to make us more dependent upon Him. Think of Joseph and David who knew grievous trials of faith. God chose them for greater things, and they needed greater maturity to bear greater responsibilities. God is glorified and His kingdom advanced when we learn from these trials. We also receive great blessing, and we bless others.
A worker at our California office has spoken of a great-great-grandmother whose godly walk came following the loss of both of her parents, leaving her at age 17 the head of a household of seven younger siblings. Now orphans, they were dirt poor, and she had to grow up fast to learn how feed them all and make sure they got educations and good characters. But she made a decision early on to put everything in God’s hands. She prayed for everything and over everybody.
The Lord met every need, and she became a testimony to her family and to the community at large for her radiant and godly character. After she married, four of her six children became missionaries, along with many of her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Dozens of nieces and nephews followed her strong Christian example of prayer and trust in God through every trial. Although she is mostly unknown to the world, her testimony, gained through many trials, has continued to influence her family and through them, the world beyond for at least six generations.
l Even when we have not fallen into gross sin, we are still imperfect in our faith. We all have many areas of the flesh in our thinking and doing, however unconscious they may be, that interfere with our effective walk with Christ. Often, God sends trials our way to make us aware of these things, to humble us and to bring out a greater faith.
For example, we may consider ourselves to have patience and maturity in our faith. But God knows better and sends trials our way to help us realize how little patience and maturity we really have, how little our lives are governed by His Spirit. These painful trials can become opportunities to confess these blind spots to God and surrender ourselves to Him in ways we have not done before.
When we bear these trials and learn from them to develop greater fellowship with our Heavenly Father, we certify that we are indeed His children. We learn to rejoice in our salvation (1 Peter 1:3-5) in ways we have never rejoiced before. As believers who rejoice in the midst of tribulation, we become testimonies to a watching world of a great and loving God. We put Satan to flight.
David was a man after God’s own heart, not because he lived a perfect life but because he confessed his sin before his Lord (Psalm 51). God doesn’t hold confessed sin over our heads. If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
At this point, we should recognize that some of our trials as Christians come, like Job’s, as the work of Satan who tries to discredit God by attacking God’s servants and trying to make them turn against God. While Satan uses his wiles to destroy us, God uses them to strengthen our faith, thereby mocking Satan by turning evil into good.
Just as Job did not waver in his faith after the enemy’s attacks, so we must continue steadfast in our faith, that we might glorify Him. After Job endured his great trial, he received God’s commendation and blessing, and Job was a stronger man than he was before.
Which of these kinds of trials have you experienced? When we learn from them, they last only for a season. The fruit we bear in our lives at such times glorifies our Lord Jesus. Such fruit lasts for eternity and affects not only us but the world around us.
During this time of trial and crisis, and through any trial we face in life, how ready are we to submit to God’s will and allow Him to work through our present troubles to bring about revival, healing and spiritual awakening?
PRAYER: Father God, help me to see this coronavirus, the lockdowns and other trials in my life as opportunities to learn greater trust in you. Show me those areas where I am still weak and deficient in my faith. Use my trials to prepare me for new ways to glorify you, advance your Kingdom, and bless others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.