Dealing with the trials we go through involves faith, obedience, understanding God's will and a lot more. The end results of this training ground are precious and eternal.
On the subject of trials, I can say that I have had my share. First there was the pain and weakness in my legs and feet. Then I had a colon cancer operation, followed by a blood clot in my leg.
I hope what my wife and I have learned will help you too.
Some of you are now fighting the good fight of faith and perseverance with sickness and other problems. I hope this will help you to continue to persevere and not give up on God and His promises.
This is also for those who, for the present, seem to be enjoying life free from trials and sickness. Thank God for that!
But we don't know what is planned for us in the future. My knee collapsed on me suddenly, without warning. Before that I was perfectly healthy! Reluctantly I took a test for colon cancer, with no prior indication that I had cancer. And the blood clot? Where did that come from?
I hope we all stay healthy. But we need to understand why God allows trials and suffering for His people. We suffer the same afflictions as the world does. But God uses our suffering as a means to increase our faith, our patience and our trust in Him. Building righteous character is important to God and to us.
When we study God's Word, we find assurance that there is a godly purpose for our trials.
Nothing tests your faith like a trial in your life, or in the life of a parent, child or close relative.
Intellectually we know God loves us, but emotionally and humanly, a trial can make us feel neglected.
Tests of Faith
God's Word prophesies that His people in all generations will suffer trials and afflictions. As Paul told the brethren soon after being stoned, "We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God" (Acts 14:22; see also 2 Timothy 3:12; Hebrews 12:5; and Psalm 34:19). These scriptures seem to carry more weight when we are in a trial. Taken alone, they sound like we have signed onto a life of pain and suffering.
But other scriptures balance this, promising a joyful future as well as happy times in this life. These tough times will soon be behind us forever.
Many of you have already passed critical tests of faith when you were first called into the Church. You may have had to tell your mate, as I did, that you will no longer keep Sunday, but will keep the Sabbath and Holy Days instead. Can you imagine someone of Arabic heritage saying he is going to keep the "Jewish" Sabbath and Holy Days?
If that didn't test my faith enough, I also had to tell my boss I could no longer work on Saturday.
Whatever trials you faced or are facing, remember, there is a purpose for our suffering.
God Has a Purpose for Our Trials
Peter wrote, "In this [salvation] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:6-7).
God tests us for as short a time as possible on areas where we are weak or can improve upon. If we are steadfast, then we will receive praise and honor when Christ returns.
"We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope" (Romans 5:3-4).
Our trials help us to grow in patience, a necessary spiritual quality. As humans, we don't like to wait.
Even Christ was made "perfect through sufferings" (Hebrews 2:10). When we go through a trial, we need to examine our spiritual life to determine where we might be slipping. Some trials are the result of sin. Others are not.
God needs to know our reaction to suffering before He will give us the power to rule people in the Kingdom. "If we endure, we shall also reign with Him" (2 Timothy 2:12).
"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word" (Psalm 119:67). Sometimes we go astray and break God's laws, bringing on ourselves pain and suffering. The psalmist was reminded that he should not neglect God's Word. Studying the Bible helps us to make changes in our spiritual lives.
Trials can bring us face-to-face with the dark side of our human nature. We can examine ourselves for pride, stubbornness, selfishness, gossip, holding grudges, being critical, being domineering and the like. These can be controlled and changed by the influence of the Holy Spirit.
God speaks to us through His Word. We should respond to Him by our prayers and right deeds. Trials help us look to God's Word for strength and encouragement.
Count It All Joy
"Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience [or steadfastness]" (James 1:2-3).
Is God joking with us? How can we be joyful when we are suffering?
The answer is found in 1 Peter 4:13: "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."
Putting it another way, we don't rejoice in our pain and suffering, but we rejoice in the end result—eternal life in the pain-free Kingdom of God, and the power to help others with their trials!
Sometimes we get our eyes off the goal, and we begin thinking of ourselves and lose sight of the purpose God is working out in our lives. We need to be God-centered and less self-centered. We need to consider the lives of those who are sacrificing their time and energy to help us when we are sick or in need.
One thing I have learned from my trial was to appreciate my wife much more. Because of my physical limitations, she has learned to fix the plumbing, repair electrical fixtures, drive me around town to doctors and, above all, encourage me when I was discouraged or depressed. She had to take on my chores, in addition to her normal responsibilities.
I often felt guilty that my limitations caused her additional stress. But she always made me feel better by saying that I was the first priority in her life.
Work Together for Good
We may not always understand how God is working in our lives, but as Romans 8:28 says, "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." Today we see this through a glass, darkly, but in the resurrection we will see clearly. God in His wisdom does not always give us the reason for His decisions.
In answer to Paul's fervent prayers for relief from a thorn in his flesh, God said, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
In my trial, I thought that the weakness in my legs was all I could handle. But for some reason colon cancer was added, then a blood clot! Then I read 1 Corinthians 10:13, "God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted [or tested] beyond what you are able." So why does God allow our problems to increase? Because He knows we can handle it and He wants us to get the highest reward that He knows we are capable of receiving. God has something better in mind for us!
But let's read the last part of 1 Corinthians 10:13. God "will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it."
What does he mean by "way of escape"? Does he mean that we should give up and quit? No! Not at all.
Overcoming trials is a joint venture. God supplies the power, but only after we supply the initiative and the commitment to fight on. The way out of troubles is full speed ahead, straight through the problem, with God leading the way.
God does promise to fulfill our needs (Psalm 34:9). But Paul says that he learned to suffer need (Philippians 4:12). So we see that the fulfillment of this promise is conditional on it promoting God's plan and being in our best interest, as well as being conditional on our obedience.
God does care about your pain! He knows our needs even before we ask (Matthew 6:8). But we should continue to ask God for relief. Don't let God rest until He heals you! He will heal, but He doesn't say when.
Sometimes He intervenes speedily to our request for help. Sometimes He makes us wait. In the case of Daniel He intervened only after Daniel was thrown into the lion's den. In the case of Daniel's friends, it was after they were thrown into the fiery furnace. In Jeremiah's life, God rescued him after he was thrown into the slimy pit. In each case God could have intervened sooner.
Then there were cases like Elisha, who died of a sickness. Paul apparently was not healed before he died. All we can assume is that God will heal them and some of us in the resurrection. But we should not lose hope of being healed now.
Peter wrote, "Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator" (1 Peter 4:19).
The present life is a training camp for kings and priests in God's Kingdom. A soldier of God needs to be trained and tested before going into battle. To us, religion is not a hobby! God is not there to always make our life more comfortable. He stretches our abilities and capacity for an end-time purpose.
If we do our part, Christ will say to us, "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" (Matthew 25:34).
The following story by an unknown author sums this all up. It's excerpted from www.retirementwithapurpose.com/teacup.html and is probably based on Jeremiah 18:2-6 and Isaiah 29:16.
There is a story of a couple who went to England to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. They both liked antiques and pottery—especially teacups. Spotting an exceptional cup in one shop, they asked, "May we see that? We've never seen a cup quite so beautiful."
As the lady handed it to them, suddenly the teacup spoke, "You don't understand," it said. "I have not always been a teacup. There was a time when I was just a lump of red clay. My master took me and rolled me, pounded and patted me over and over, and I yelled out, 'Don't do that! I don't like it! Let me alone!' But he only smiled, and gently said, 'Not yet!'
"Then WHAM! I was placed on a spinning wheel and suddenly I was spun around and around and around. 'Stop it! I'm getting so dizzy! I'm going to be sick!' I screamed. But the master only nodded and said, quietly, 'Not yet.'
"He spun me and poked and prodded and bent me out of shape to suit himself and then… he put me in the oven. I never felt such heat. I yelled and knocked and pounded at the door. 'Help! Get me out of here!' I could see him through the opening and I could read his lips as he shook his head from side to side, 'Not yet.'
"When I thought I couldn't bear it another minute, the door opened. He carefully took me out and put me on the shelf, and I began to cool. Oh, that felt so good! 'Ah, this is much better,' I thought.
"But, after I cooled, he picked me up and he brushed and painted me all over. The fumes were horrible. I thought I would gag. 'Oh, please stop it. Stop it!' I cried. He only shook his head and said, 'Not yet!'
"Then suddenly he put me back in to the oven. Only it was not like the first one. This was twice as hot, and I just knew I would suffocate. I begged. I pleaded. I screamed. I cried. I was convinced I would never make it. I was ready to give up…
"Just then the door opened and he took me out and again placed me on the shelf, where I cooled and waited and waited, wondering, 'What's he going to do to me next?'
"An hour later, he handed me a mirror and said, 'Look at yourself.'
"And I did. I said, 'That's not me. That couldn't be me. It's beautiful. I'm beautiful!'
"Quietly he spoke, 'I know it hurt to be rolled and pounded and patted, but had I just left you alone, you'd have dried up.
"'I know it made you dizzy to spin around on the wheel, but if I had stopped, you would have crumbled.
"'I know it hurt and it was hot and disagreeable in the oven, but if I hadn't put you there, you would have cracked.
"'I know the fumes were bad when I brushed and painted you all over, but if I hadn't done that, you never would have hardened. You would not have had any color in your life. If I hadn't put you back in that second oven, you wouldn't have survived for long because the hardness would not have held.
"'Now you are a finished product. Now you are what I had in mind when I first began with you.'"
The moral of the story is this:
God knows what He's doing in each of us. He is the potter and we are His clay. He will mold us and shape us and expose us to just enough pressures of just the right kinds that we may be made into a flawless piece of work to fulfill His good, pleasing and perfect will. UN