We are currently living in some stressful times. Even if you are blessed by not being subjected to mainstream “news” media, you’ve undoubtedly heard from friends and family who are concerned about their lives and livelihood in the next several years. As Christians, we have been given the keys to life and living that we can use to reach the lost and the hurting. Unfortunately, there is a lot of false doctrine out there. Perhaps the most damaging, is the idea that if you just have enough faith (and do certain things in that faith) that you will be free from trials, tribulation, persecution, hunger, thirst, and every other imaginable hardship. That is not in keeping with the teaching given to us in the New Testament. Yes, God loves us, and has promised to meet our every need. We serve a sovereign God… He is Lord over everything. Nothing happens that He does not allow to happen. Lets begin with some references from the Gospels:
John 16:3 (NIV)
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus stated very plainly that in this world we will have trouble. He is preparing His disciples for what was about to come, and His encouragement wasn’t “but if you have faith, you will be exempted from troubles”… it was “But take heart! I have overcome the world”. But why? Why allow us to face troubles? If God is sovereign, why not simply exempt His faithful followers? Let’s take a look at Peter, one of his star pupils.
Luke 22:31-32 (NIV)
31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Indeed, we see that we serve a Sovereign God. But there is a reason why God allows the trials to come. Do you know why wheat needs to be sifted? Because not all of it is fitting for consumption. If you don’t sift the wheat, you’ll end up introducing impurities into the food. Notice Jesus’s prayer on Simon’s behalf… “that your faith may not fail”. You see, faith isn’t designed to grant you the power to avoid trouble, its purpose is to sustain you in Him through the trials. These are general truths. In each of our lives, God also has specific goals and purposes in mind for our individual struggles. In this case, He wanted Simon to endure the trial, and when he had recovered from it, he was to strengthen his brothers. God continues to work through His Church in this same fashion. When we go through trials and struggles, God sustains us through it all so that we might give Him praise and thanks and that we might strengthen our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Without taking away a single letter of the Law or of the many promises of God for His Love, Mercy, Provision, and desire to answer prayer, I want to present several examples throughout the new testament of the reality of trials, tribulations, and hardships that we Christians should expect until the day of Christ’s return, or until God the Father has appointed each of us to leave this world. The Apostle Paul included this truth in many of his letters to the churches:
2 Corinthians 7:8-11 (NASB)
8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us inAsia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; 9indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us, 11 you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.
And this was on a “missions trip” so to speak. This was not an isolated trial or event; rather, it became a way of life for Paul, something he learned to take joy in.
Colossians 1:24 (NASB)
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions.
Paul often wrote of how we are to identify with Christ in His death, resurrection, and ascension. He also recognized that while we walk this earth in our fleshly bodies, we are to share in Christ’s afflictions, for the Church is the Body of Christ, with Christ as the Head of the body (1 Cor 12). Just as Christ endured trials, suffering, and afflictions in obedience to God the Father, how much more so should we endure for His Name sake? But it is a point of rejoicing for Paul. And he was not alone in this view/mindset.
James 1: 2-4 (NASB)
2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Again, as with Jesus’ plan for Simon (Peter), there is a purpose for the suffering/trials/tribulations. We are perfected in our faith and in our understanding of Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven through our trials. The athlete who never struggles quickly grows weak. The mind that isn’t challenged grows numb. The Christian that does not face hardship will slip into sin and fall away from the faith.
In closing, let us look at what the Apostle Peter had to say:
1 Peter 5:6-11 (NASB)
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.
- I can do all things… (faithfulstewardship.wordpress.com)