"Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy." 1 Peter 4:12-13
Whenever we go through trials in our life, whether it be spiritual, mental or physical, we can have comfort and assurance from God's Words that they happened for a purpose. In our modern society, the health and wealth gospel has corrupted many churches. Some preachers preached that once you believe in Christ, all your problems will go away, all your sicknesses will be healed, and you will never suffer nor fall sick.
This is clearly contrary to the Word of God. God never promised that we will live a life free from troubles and illnesses once we become a Christian. But He promised to be with us and that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He promised that He is working all things for His glory and our good. We may not always see it this way when we are going through our fiery trials, but whenever we look back months and years later, we will see the wisdom and the goodness of God even in our most severe trials. God sustained and preserved us in them, sanctified us and draw us nearer to Him. In 1 Peter 4:12-13 quoted above, God warns us not to think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try us, as though some strange thing happened unto us. And in Acts 14:22, Paul and the other disciples visited the believers at Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch, "Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."
We are not to think it strange when we go through trials or afflictions but rather to remember that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God. God will be with us to give us the grace to go through these trials.
1 Peter Chapter 1:6-8
6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
We will triumph over these trials and afflictions as the Lord works His grace in our souls, strengthening our faith in Him, our hope in Him, and our love for Him. So that we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us. And nothing shall ever separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Rev John J Murray made the following comment and quoted these encouraging portions from some poems in a small booklet written by him entitled "Behind a Frowning Providence" :
"When we set off on the Christian pathway we do not know much about our true selves. It is even possible to enter the Christian ministry without much knowledge of the deceitfulness of the heart. 'We are on too good terms with ourselves', said Dr Lloyd-Jones. We pray sincerely for growth in grace, for increase in faith, but the answer comes in a way we did not expect. John Newton was one who made the painful discovery.
The following are taken from 'Prayer Answered by Crosses' by John Newton, 'God Moves in a Mysterious Way' by William Cowper, 'The Weaver' and 'Last Words' (a poem inspired by the letters and last words of Samuel Rutherford) by Mrs A. R. Cousin:
I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace,
Might more of his salvation know,
And seek more earnestly his face.
'Twas he who taught me thus to pray;
And he, I trust, has answered prayer;
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair
I hoped that, in some favoured hour,
At once, he'd answer my request,
And by his love's constraining power
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this, he made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart,
And let the angry powers of hell
Assault my soul in every part.
Yea, more, with his own hand he seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
Lord, why is this? I trembling cried;
Wilt thou pursue this worm to death?
This is the way, the Lord replied
I answer prayer for grace and faith.
These inward trials I now employ
From self and pride to set thee free,
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may'st seek thy all in me.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust in His grace,
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign wills.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be flower.
Not till the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver's skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern he has planned.
Deep waters cross'd life pathway
The Hedge of thorns was sharp;
Now these lie all behind me;
Oh! For a well-tuned harp!
Soon shall the cup of blessing
Wash down earth's bitterest woes;
Soon shall the desert brier
Break into Eden's rose.
"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
RC Sproul's lecture on the General Epistles from his series on "Dust to glory" which was shown during my church's Adult Bible Class last Lord's day was very encouraging.
James encouraged the believers who were enduring trials and tribulations:
2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
James encouraged those who lack wisdom to ask of God:
5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
Sproul said that the trials we experienced in our lives are tests in which God brings us to higher level of sanctification. The way we are to face these trials is with wisdom. Wisdom is how to live a godly life - devoted to God. True faith will always work itself in term of obedience.
The major theme of 1st and 2nd Peter is similar - encouragement to Christians in their sufferings and afflictions. Sproul said that the common phenomena is the prosperity gospel or the health and wealth gospel which says that come to Jesus Christ and all your problems will go away. Name it and claim it! And how the multitude of people embrace it! Sproul exclaimed, how can people be fooled by it! Being in affliction, pain and persecution is in many pages of the Bible. The believers were in prison, living in exile and participating in the humiliation of Christ.
Sproul said the refining fire is not to destroy us. God is using our pain for our sanctification so that we may learn to look to Him for comfort and consolation. Though seemingly unbearable, it is not futile but it has an eternal purpose. May God gives us the grace to look to Him in our trials and afflictions in this world knowing that God is working it for our sanctification and other goods.
When we are tried, we shall come forth as gold.
"But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold." Job 23:10