What a special thing it is to be tested by God. Just as a father disciplines his son out of love, so God disciplines us because He loves us and wants to strengthen us. But like a child, we don’t always see that it is for our benefit, we even cry out to God asking why He is doing it to us. What do you think God would answer? I look to the book of Job – the Old Testament shows us the character of God, what did God say to Job?
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?
Dress for action like a man;
I will question you, and you make it known to me.”
God goes on to ask Job
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?
Tell me, if you have understanding..”
“Have you commanded the morning since your days began,
and caused the dawn to know its place,
that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth,
and the wicked be shaken out of it?
It is changed like clay under the seal,
and its features stand out like a garment.
From the wicked their light is withheld,
and their uplifted arm is broken.”
He again asks Job
“Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?
He who argues with God, let him answer it.”
In these questions, God shows us that He is the Almighty. He is all knowing (Omniscient) and all-powerful (Omnipotent). Who are we to argue with God? In knowing God and knowing his character, we know God is, by definition perfect, so then that means He is perfectly just. God is also love (John 4:8 – Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.) Love demands a perfect balance between mercy and justice. We need to have faith in this, and know, that what is done, is done for our good and the good of others. Just like that child can’t see the love, justice and therefore, purpose in the discipline the father is giving him in that moment, even more so can we not see the plan that God is unfolding in our lives.
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
2 Corinthians 4:13-18.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
We look at the lives of all the apostles and see the trials they went through, watching them grow stronger in their faith. If we are not tested how can we then be strengthened? If we are not strong in our faith then how can we take on the world and all its evil and temptations. This reminds me of the Special Forces training they call “Hell week”. These guys go through, and endure, the most extreme training assessment exercises. The drills and intense psychological exercises they do, is to train them for physical and psychological warfare. They break these recruits mentally and physically, not for the sake of breaking them, but strengthening them, moulding them, making them more driven and purposeful characters, making them ready for any sort of situation. Whether it be fighting the enemy or being a POW (Prisoner of war) and enduring interrogation from the enemy. In the same way our enemy is real, and just as these recruits need training and strengthening for what is to come, so do we. God does this perfectly. Everything in life is this way. Every time you fail at something, yet persevere past the failure you learn from that failure. It never feels good to fail, yet it’s worth persevering through it, to learn from it. Everyone that goes to gym knows it’s hard and it’s a struggle, you sacrifice comfort or indulging in certain foods. But at the end of it you see the benefits. James speaks of having joy in trials. He speaks of trials, testing of our faith and steadfastness.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James tells us that trials are “tests” that challenge our faith. That when trials occur, we should count it all joy – This joy isn’t meaning “worldly or temporal” happiness, but rather spiritual and enduring. “Complete joy” is in the LORD, who is sovereign over all things, including the trials we are going through. We are not called to be masochists. We rejoice because we know that we don’t suffer in vain, we know this because of our faith, because God has told us and taught us what suffering “produces”. Suffering accomplishes something. It is productive, it is of value. We know this because our sovereign God, the One who sees the beginning, and the end has told us. That is why we rejoice.
Paul speaks of suffering and endurance.
Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
We see the apostles thanking God for the trials they’re in, whether it be in prison or getting stoned, they know their sacrifice is for the Lord. When I look at my life now I try and think of my next steps by Imaging on that day when I meet God face to face. What do I think would be more pleasing to the Lord? Saying, “God I played Golf, I drove nice cars, I made loads of money, I traveled from comfort to comfort around the world”. Or saying, “Lord I diligently taught Your word, I made disciples of men, I gave everything I had to the poor and followed Your word. I suffered for the faith”. How much more pleasing would that be to the Lord? I think this should be a great motivation for us. We all go through our own battles, big or small, but knowing God is with us, and He knows what we are going through and has absolute power over it. And not only that, but whatever the outcome as we can see it, good or bad, that it is part of God’s perfect and just plan. How awesome is that?
I have lived a rich man’s life in comparison to most of the world. I have lived for money and material things and selfish pleasures. I have struggled with anger, guilt, addiction and anxiety. I grew up in a Christian home knowing about God and the Bible. I never understood really what it meant to be a Christian. I tried everything to suppress it to a point where I could almost see the line of no return and something inside me told me to stop. I never knew what it meant when people talked about the “veil being taken off” until I truly became a Christian. God showed me the evil in the world, took the veil from my eyes, and let me see what a wretched man I am. I hope I have given God everything, and I pray for conviction and strength, that if I have anything left to give him, that I would happily give it over and live a life for his glory not my own. We will fail, we will sin. We are wretched sinners, yet we need to strive for holiness and never use our wretchedness as an excuse. I ask God every day for strength to live up to the standards He has set in the bible. I pray for him to use me. In praying these words, I know I’m praying for suffering, I’m praying for trials, and it scares me but makes me happy at the same time, knowing that no matter what, I have God Almighty, the creator of all things by my side. He knew me before I was even on this earth. He knew my story, He knew the bad and the good times. He saw the path I would walk. He saw me, a wretched sinner, and He touched me with His grace. He chose m. Me this terrible sinner, this careless man, who didn’t care about anyone but his circle of people. A man who lived for pleasure and comfort. And if He chose me, one of the worst people on this planet, He can choose anyone. It gives me great happiness to know that none of Jesus’ disciples were highly educated, wealthy people. But ordinary men who endured intense suffering, raised the dead, healed the sick, had the courage to stand in front of crowds of people who hated them, and preach the word.
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.
This is awesomely motivating for me. We need to use our trials for greatness, knowing God loves us and He will never give us more then we can handle. Thank you God!