24 December 2010

The Purpose of Trials

The word ‘trials’ brings with it a variety of mixed emotions…

It will likely make you either uncomfortable or angry, disillusioned or uneasy. Many painful memories and thoughts, experiences and people can come to mind, even entire years where everything in life seemed to fall apart.

Trials can have many different meanings and contexts, including storms, afflictions, hardships, tests, discipline, suffering, persecutions and alike…

In many cultures, there is mixed opinion about life’s trials and their response to them. Ancient Greeks saw trials as a curse which was always negative. The Romans saw them to be avoided if at all possible which were to be detested.

However, early Christians saw trials in a different light. To them it was sent by God either directly or indirectly, to Purify, Prune, Prepare and Prove. They saw them as opportunities to purify their motives (1 Peter 1:6-7), prune for greater fruitfulness (John 15), prepare for the future (James 1:4) and to ultimately prove that they belonged to Christ by sharing in His sufferings (Romans 8:17).

FOR you - not Against you

2 Corinthians 4:16-17 - Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.

During the last 2 years I have had to overcome some difficult personal trials that would get harder and stay longer! At times I was often frustrated, angry, discouraged and depressed.

However, only AFTERWARDS have I found that the purpose of trials has always been to grow, to strengthen, to refine and stretch my capacity. The results have meant that I always leave with new capacity, greater humility, superior character and more dependence on the power of God.

Looking back and having perspective is a great weapon against trials for the future leaving you with a bitter and wounded heart. It is very likely that the person who you are today is a result of trials you had to overcome personally.

James illustrates:
• even a poor man has much good in his trial of poverty if he knows God - the owner of the universe.
• and a rich man through he lose everything can rejoice in the good of having learned not to place his faith in riches which can quickly pass away (1:9-11).

Scripture is clear that it is commendable to God when we endure unfair treatment patiently:

1 Peter 2:19-24 - For one is regarded favorably (is approved, acceptable, and thankworthy) if, as in the sight of God, he endures the pain of unjust suffering. [After all] what kind of glory [is there in it] if, when you do wrong and are punished for it, you take it patiently? But if you bear patiently with suffering [which results] when you do right and that is undeserved, it is acceptable and pleasing to God.

Why is this so important and whose example do we have that this is even possible? Look at the next verse:

For even to this were you called [it is inseparable from your vocation]. For Christ also suffered for you, leaving you [His personal] example, so that you should follow in His footsteps. He was guilty of no sin, neither was deceit (guile) ever found on His lips.

When He was reviled and insulted, He did not revile or offer insult in return; [when] He was abused and suffered, He made no threats [of vengeance]; but he trusted [Himself and everything] to Him Who judges fairly.

Testimony – His Eye is on the Sparrow

I received a message from someone whose family was going through a terribly difficult time with no end in sight. This is what she wrote:

I have known the truth of Romans 8:28 in my head for many years, but only over the last month have the words had a meaning for my heart. I am convinced that this whole situation has a purpose, but I am still struggling with the "What." Without the promises of God, I am sure that I would be unable to carry on, going to work and supporting my kids.

If this letter sounds disjointed, it is just how my thoughts have been over the past several weeks. But I have continued to hold on to this truth… Don't worry about 2 or 3 weeks from now, because God has already been there. I know that he continues to hold our entire family in the palm of His hand and that He is directing this to its own end and to His glory. I know that since He cares for the sparrows, He surely is caring for us.

That's a wonderful statement by a believer who, though struggling to understand her own situation, has rested her faith on the fact of God's sovereignty over the details of life.

God's sovereignty means "He knows what he is doing, and he is doing it." That sums it up pretty well doesn't it?

He brought me here. He will keep me here. He will make this trial a blessing. He will bring me out again. Therefore, I am here by God's appointment, in His keeping, under His training, for His time…
- Andrew Murray


Trials = Complete Spiritual Maturity

James 1:2-4 - Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

The natural response when faced with a situation that is unpleasant is to want that situation removed. If there is something that is causing you pain, you naturally want that pain removed.

However, the mature person sees that trials come into our lives to strengthen us. Trials are for our good. We should not want them removed simply because they are unpleasant. We should bear them in faith and seek God’s wisdom to learn whatever God is trying to teach us during them.

The end destination of trials is ultimately to reach a state of complete spiritual maturity, measuring up to the full stature of Christ (Eph 4:13).

1 Peter 1:6-7 - In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

In summary, if you are experiencing a trial right now, ask yourself: what is God teaching me? Is there anything in my life that shouldn’t be there? Are there character/heart issues that need to be developed?

If you said yes to any of these, the best thing you can do ….. is surrender. Lay down your pride, discomfort, securities and everything that you dearly hold on to, and give it all to Him. The idea of surrender is that you are wrong and you have nothing to hold onto – Freedom!

If God is perfect (Matt 5:48), the complete expression of Love (1 John 4:16) and is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8), He can be trusted. God is always in control – He has the last say at the end of the day.

Remember: The purpose of trials is to Purify, Prune, Prepare and Prove, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing!