Trials are Opportunities
"I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then am I strong."
When one trusts God, he stops asking for sympathy, for he sees his trials as the very conditions of his blessings, and he looks to God for strength. For as Paul courageously said (Rom. 8:38-39), "I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Jesus Christ our Lord."
The overcoming of temptations and trials builds confidence in God. Then, should we not rejoice in them? Every trial, every problem, affords a glorious opportunity to learn of the high calling to which God ever calls His own. They are precious opportunities to prove our faith in God! Our heavenly Father often ordains that we suffer for a season that we might be made perfect and worthy of His praise. Oh, how the true measure of one's worth is brought out as he struggles through dark nights of sorrow and pain! When we are tried "so as by fire", we learn to look to Him who has promised, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned. Neither shall the flame kindle upon you." (Isa. 43:2). Through all our trials, our Father walks beside us, however dark may be the night.
Dear friends, God proves us to show us who we really are, whether we are like the wise man who built his house upon the rock or the foolish man who built his house on sand. If we are wise, we will see our trials as stepping stones carefully designed by our Father to mold us more perfectly in His image. Knowing this, Peter joyfully counselled, "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice, inasmuch as you are partakers of Christ's sufferings." We must endure the refiner's fire in order to attain to the standard of holiness which fits us for the Master's use. Peter, that dear old fire-tried apostle, desired that "the trial of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1Pet. 1:7).
One can always be thankful for the guiding Hand that leads triumphantly in the confidence of right, though that Hand at times may lead "through the valley of the shadow of death." If one will only trust at all times, he will be able to say, as the Psalmist David, "I will fear no evil, for you are with me." Yes, reader, God will bring you through every battle victoriously and make you more than a conqueror in every battle. You need never be troubled nor fear defeat as long as you obey the invisible One who directs and sustains all His tried people.
The glory of suffering for righteousness' sake shines upon us more and more as we climb through these trials of faith with heads raised toward the heights of perfection, "Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith." Without a strong hold on our dear Savior, we will utterly fail, for without him we are too helpless and weak to master our trials. He is our Strength; therefore, we may be encouraged even when we feel cast down and weak, as Paul did. At times during our trials we may feel as mournful Job felt when he uttered these words, "Behold, I go forward, but I cannot perceive Him; on the left hand, where He works, but I cannot behold Him. He hides Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him. But He knows the way that I take. When He has tried me, I will come forth as gold."
"Though he slay me, yet will I trust him."
"The Lord tries the righteous," David tells us (Ps. 11:5). And the strongest type of character always receives the hardest trials. What a glorious opportunity we have - the privilege to be stamped with the trademark of heaven! Trials of faith are God's greatest compliments to His earthly children.
One should never look upon his trials as mere attacks from the Devil. Not at all! God's sheep should be taught that it is God who designs and sends trials of faith, and that they are intended for our greatest blessings! There is great peace in understanding that faith must be tried, and that when it is tried, it is being tried by God! From trials, one learns his most precious lessons, lessons custom designed for each of us by our Father, to match our faith and to enhance our spiritual development.
If you do not yet know the sweetness and the joy of overcoming trials, then perhaps you need to humble yourself before God, "casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you." There is a peace that comes with obeying this exhortation that is unattainable by any other means.
Suppose the engines in our airplanes were not tested before they took to the air. Would you want to be aboard for its maiden flight? I doubt it. Even so it is with us. Jesus will not take that much-talked about trip in the air with anyone who hasn't had the ground test. The test of our faith is the discipline of God, the method He uses to correct, mold, strengthen, and perfect us. These tests are manifold, and may be puzzling and painful, but we have one great consolation; that is, they are all to last only "for a season". Yes, thank God, the testing time is short compared to eternity with all its enjoyments. Paul exhorts us to remember that "no trial has overtaken you but what is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not permit you to be tried beyond what you can bear, but He will also, with the trial, make a way out, so that you will be able to endure it."
Every trial is designed by our God with a holy purpose. Trials prepare us for blessings; and only those who receive the discipline of trials here in this world will obtain the crown of life. The word of God forever heralds the truth that man must battle for his crown. A calm sea never made a skillful mariner.
The Bible relates stories of many whose lives seemed to be one extended test of character and faith, Abraham, Joseph, Jeremiah, and Daniel, among them. They offer proof that "whom the Lord loves, He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." At the same time, such lives show that it is possible to pass through every trial with integrity and grace. Surely we, as well as they, can be "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." May God help us to obtain more of this "like precious faith", so that when Jesus comes, we shall not be found wanting.
Be patient, my friends, and do not mar your peace by needless worry, but "count it all joy when you fall into diverse trials, knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience." And "let patience have her perfect work, that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing."