Our trials and troubles

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” – 1 Peter 4:12-13

sparks521 (photo credit: Istock)
(photo credit: Istock)
Trials and troubles constitute unexpected and challenging events that impact upon our future. For the Christian, walking in right standing with God, we may adjust this definition thusly: Trials and troubles constitute unexpected and challenging events that impact positively upon our future.
Paul exhorted the saints in Lystra, Iconium and Antioch by saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter into the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
His message was clear – trials and tribulations are very much part of the Christian journey and experience.
The cycle of trials Job wrote, “…man is born for trouble as the sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7).
Sparks emanating from a fire always fly upward and never down. Our trials very often leave us bewildered, desperate and even frightened because we sense that we have lost control of our lives and are vulnerable to uncertainty. We must, however, remember that God is always with us, just as He was with Daniel’s three friends when they were cast into the fiery furnace.
The God we serve never abandons us!
The blessing of trials
James writes that we must “consider it all joy when we encounter trials” (James 1:2).
As with Job, we need to learn in our hearts the great truths of God’s love, sovereignty, character, care and watchfulness over us. These truths have to gravitate from our minds to our hearts and become an unshakable part of us. Trials – or more correctly our responses to trials – reveal to what degree this has happened. This is their blessing! If we become “unhinged” and full of anxiety, this reveals that we have not been as grounded as we should in the great truths of who God is.
Our lives must be settled on the bedrock of His steadfast love and care, but sadly there is so much “carnal debris” in our lives that God, through trials, has to sweep this away and thereby anchor us more fully in Himself. This is a blessing and cause for joy!
The purpose of trials
Much could be said about the purpose of trials and troubles, but we will focus on that which Paul, James and Peter taught about them.
Paul teaches us that troubles enable us to reach people who would otherwise never be reached (Philippians 1:12-21).
Paul’s godly behavior in a Roman jail stood out amongst his fellow inmates and caught the attention of his jailers.
This shows others are watching your life, particularly when you are encountering troubles, to see if you are just like them or are truly different.
Paul also writes that when the believers saw how God was caring and providing for him in jail, they were emboldened in their witness. Your attitude in the face of adversity is an encouragement to your fellow Christians.
Finally, Paul concedes that trials and troubles helped transform his life into the image of Christ. This is because in such times we seek Him more, read His word more and embrace Him more. All this amounts to godly change.
James teaches us that trials and tribulations “prove us” and thereby equip us better for service in the Kingdom of God (James 1:2-3). Trouble is therefore self-instructive in that we learn about the true nature of our spiritual maturity and strength, as Peter did when he denied Christ three times.
Peter was not as brave as he said he was and after his troubles at Jesus’ trial he certainly corrected his weaknesses.
Peter also teaches us that trials and troubles enable us to more powerfully reflect the character of Jesus (1 Peter 6-8).
Just as gold is refined by fire and the “dross” removed, so it is by the fire of trials and tribulations that God removes the impurities from our lives.
We will all be subjected to this process at some time in our spiritual journey and although it is unpleasant, in the end it produces the “peaceable fruit of righteousness” within us (Hebrews 12:7-11). •
Rev. Malcolm Hedding is vice chairman of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org