We are all going to go through trials, difficulties, and sufferings in this life, whether we are a Christian or a non-Christian. It is just part of living in these flesh bodies and in this imperfect and sinful world. Some of us will go through these to a much greater degree than others, but we all have them.
Yet, for those who have committed their lives to Jesus Christ, to make him Lord and Savior of their lives, they will have the additional suffering of being hated and persecuted for their faith, and for their testimonies for Jesus Christ, if they are living holy lives pleasing to God, and if they are following him in obedience to his commands.
For, nominal Christians rarely invoke such hatred and persecution, because they are usually no threat to Satan’s kingdom, because they aren’t really standing up for anything that would be a threat to Satan. For, these are worldly Christians who are lukewarm in their faith, neither totally rejecting Jesus Christ, nor are they passionate and on fire for God.
Suffering has a Purpose
But, our suffering in this life is not for naught. It has a purpose. And, the purpose is for our good, though at the time of the trial we might not be able to see the good in it. For, we can go through some pretty horrific things in this life, at times, which try our faith, and which may even tempt us to question the goodness of God and his sovereignty over all things, too.
So, we need to understand why God allows us to go through the things he allows us to go through, so that when we go through them we don’t lose faith, but so that our faith increases. For, the purposes of trials are:
• To produce in us endurance, godly character and hope (Rom. 5:3-5)
• To produce in us steadfastness, that we may be mature (Jas. 1:2-4)
• To test the genuineness of our faith (1 Pet. 1:6-7)
• That our faith may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:6-7)
• To give opportunity for us to bear witness for Jesus Christ (Lu. 21:13)
• That we might comfort others in their trials with the same comfort we received from God in our difficulties (2 Co. 1:3-11)
• To make us rely not on ourselves but on God (2 Co. 1:3-11)
• For producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison (2 Co. 4:17)
• Because God disciplines those he loves for our good (Heb. 12:3-12)
• That we may share God’s holiness (Heb. 12:3-12)
• That it might yield in our lives the peaceful fruit of righteousness for those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:3-12)
• To lead us to repentance when we have strayed from the truth and we have gone our own way, instead (Rev. 3:19)
Endurance and Godly Character
When we believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives, we don’t become instantly perfect (sinless). Yes, Jesus set us free from our slavery to sin so that sin is no longer our master, and so we are no longer its slaves, if truly we have been saved by God’s grace. But, we still live in flesh bodies, and the flesh is at war with the Spirit, and the Spirit is at war with the flesh. And, we are still tempted to sin, and we still have the propensity to sin.
So, in order to humble us, and in order to keep moving us away from sin and to God, our Lord allows us to go through suffering and persecutions. For, they will have one of two results in our lives. Either they will result in us giving up on God and returning to our old ways, or they will make us stronger in our faith, cause us to call on God in our suffering, and draw us closer to our Lord, even more determined to follow him in obedience.
For, when we go through tough stuff in this life, it definitely tests our faith, and it reveals whether or not our faith in Jesus Christ is genuine or if it is weak and needs to be strengthened. And, so it challenges us to grow stronger in our walks of faith in the Lord, and to learn to rely on our Lord in all things, instead of on ourselves. Our trials prune us to make us more holy and to make us into fruit-bearing disciples (followers) of Jesus Christ.
Opportunities to Witness
Now, this can be good or bad. And, what I mean by that is that, when we go through trials, how we respond to those trials, especially in front of others, bears witness to our faith and our walks with the Lord. Our responses to our suffering will reveal where we are weak in faith, and where our faith needs to be strengthened, or they will reveal where we are lacking in faith or where our faith is not genuine at all, but where it is fake.
So, when we respond badly to our trials, especially in front of others, we end up being bad or poor witnesses for Jesus Christ. But, this can be a springboard to reveal to us where we have things in our hearts that need to be cut out and cleansed and healed, and it can lead to opportunities to share Christ, too, regarding how he helps us in our weaknesses, and how he forgives sin, and how he is growing us and maturing us in Christ, too.
But, another thought on this, speaking from my own experience, is that sometimes God allows us to go through trials or he allows us to “run up against brick walls” (to face opposition) in order to redirect us. It may not be that we are going a wrong direction, at least not knowingly, but he may use trials in our lives to close doors in our lives because he has new ones he wants to open up for us.
For example, I am on the internet sharing my faith and sharing what my Lord teaches me through his Word each day, and through songs, too, because he slammed the door in my face regarding the direction I was previously going, which in Christian circles is not considered a bad way, but it wasn’t God’s way for me. So, through trials he literally pushed me to my knees, calling on God for answers, and this is where he led me to be.
And, he continues to use trials, tribulations and persecutions in my life to lead me to himself and to depend on him and not on myself, to lead me to cry out to him, and to call on him, and to hear what he wants to teach me so that I can grow in him in the way he has for me, and so that I can be used of him in the lives of others in the way he has designed for my life.
To Comfort Others
Since we all go through suffering in this life, one of the reasons God allows suffering in our lives is so that we can empathize with others in their suffering, and so that we can encourage them with the encouragement we received from Christ when we were going through our suffering.
For, our suffering is not for naught. It has a purpose in our lives. And, it is to teach us what God wants us to learn, and to strengthen us in our faith, and to lead us into the arms of God where we will receive guidance and direction in the ways he would have us to go. And, so having gone through these things, and having learned from them, we can share with others what can help them, too, during their times of difficulty which try their faith.
This word “discipline” has several different meanings and purposes. It can definitely be divine correction and chastisement (Heb. 12:3-12), either as a normal course of our Christian walks to keep us on course and to help us to resist Satan and to flee temptation, or it can be as a stronger discipline (chastisement) for when we have gotten off course, and we need to be brought back into a proper relationship with Christ and walk of faith in him.
It can also be speaking of the disciplines of the Christian faith and training in how to live for the Lord, and in how to resist Satan, flee temptation and in how to draw near to God and to walk in daily obedience to his commands. And this would be his instructions to us in his word on such things as holiness, godliness, self-control, purity, love, compassion, forgiveness, tenderness, and mercy, etc. But, sometimes these need to be reinforced in our lives through times of difficulty which test our faith.
So, what we need to take away from this is that trials, suffering, afflictions and persecutions are in our lives not just because we live in a sinful world and in flesh bodies, but they serve a purpose in our lives, and they are for our good. For, they are there to make us holy, to mature us in our walks of faith, to train us in godliness, to teach us perseverance, to make us more sensitive to the sufferings of others and to keep us on track with God.
So, don’t let your trials get you down. Don’t let them take you out. Don’t let them lead you to discouragement and to doubting God, because that is what Satan wants. In the power of God, we must rise above our circumstances, we must call on God in faith, and we must submit to God’s will and purposes in our lives in these trials and learn from them and grow from them so that we can be more and more like Jesus to the dying world around us.
Jesus Draw Me Ever Nearer
Lyrics by Margaret Becker
Music by Keith Getty
“Jesus draw me ever nearer
As I labour through the storm.
You have called me to this passage,
and I’ll follow, though I’m worn…
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