What purpose do trials have in our lives?
James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.
That is not our natural inclination … must have been shocking to people when they first read this letter (we are used to hearing those verses.)
Trials come in all shapes and sizes when it says trials of various kinds – big, little, hard, easier, all kinds of trials,…trials are inevitable. Notice he says consider it all joy when (not if) they come You can have financial trials, physical trials, family trials,trials w/friends, all kinds of different things. Some people have the idea that because they are Christians, doing devotions, tithing, that means – you won’t have problems. But God didn’t not promise us a trial free life- in fact Jesus said in this world you will have troubles..
so the fact that we are faithfully serving God doesn’t mean we won’t have trials. The psalmist says Ps 34:19- Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
So… what’s the advantage of being a christian?
You won’t go thru them alone.
Sometimes we think that because we are doing our part, that when a trial comes God isn’t doing His part (and that’s not true). Sometimes we think that things will always be smooth.
God has a purpose for allowing trials in our lives.
It helps us to navigate trials if we understand that God has a purpose and that trials are important
6 purposes of trials:
1. Trials are a test – to test the strength of our faith. in II Chron 32:31 God wanted Hezakiah to understand what was in his own heart. trials become a spiritual inventory that help us realize where we are at…to know the strength of our faith. if you are going thru a severe trial, God may use it to reveal to you the condition of your faith. If you are having a really hard time and in constant anxiety about a situation, questioning, doubting God… that can be an indicator of weak faith in an area of our life. That is hard for us to hear. We could be very strong in believing God in some areas of our life – a financial issue, but another issue you could easily be on the rocks. Part of it has to do with what we’ve already been thru; when we’ve seen him deliver us in one area of our lives it is easier to believe He will deliver us again in that same area; but when we hit a different area it can be very difficult and test our faith. If this happens, count it joy because this shows us exactly where we can pray Lord please strengthen my faith in this area.
2. Trials come to humble us.
They cause us to depend on God which is really the greatest measure of humility. The more humble a person is, the more they depend on God and realize their need for God. In II Cor 12 God sent a trial into Paul’s life (v.7) to keep him from being too elated …. He’d been doing all kinds of miracles, caught up intot the 3rd heaven – he also must have known God was using him in his letters to the churches; part of the problem is when God is using you to a great degree, that can tend to cause a person to become prideful and less humble. So literally God allowed him to have a trial to keep him humble… Paul said the thorn was very painful- literally a stake that he felt impaled by. It came to keep him from becoming conceited, so that he would keep depending on God. He said I found out through this trial that I’m the strongest when I’m the weakest. Because when I’m weak then God is strong and that is when things are at their best spiritually speaking. So you might feel like you are at the end of your rope, that is when you are at the beginning of Gods power working in your life.
3. Trials come to keep us from relying on worldly things.
Sometimes we put our confidence in what we have, or the people we know, or the things we can do. We put it in the wrong place. God sends a trial to cause us to rely on him rather than the wrong place. In John 6 Jesus is getting ready to feed the 5,000. He had told the disciples earlier to feed the people and so they had been thinking of how to solve this…..then Jesus asked Phillip this question because he wanted him to realize Lord You open blind eyes, You raise the dead, (things Philip had seen) You do all kinds of things so this is no problem for You, I know You can feed them… but instead Philip said 8 months wages would not be enough to feed them…and he doesn’t see how this could be possible v. 6 tells us that Jesus asked him this to test him, because Jesus knew what He was going to do. Jesus already knew.
Isn’t it good to know that in our trial he knows exactly what He’s going to do. You may be going thru a trial and Jesus knows exactly how He is going to solve it …and what He wants you and I to do is exactly what he wanted Philip to do…He wants us to look to him and say Lord there is no earthly human way this thing is going to be resolved… God you are just going to have to work on my behalf and take care of me…. and that is no big deal because I know You can do that. There is a real release in that. Here is Philip saying there is no way it can be done and what Jesus wanted, was for him to say You are the creator God and for You there is nothing that is impossible.
4. Trials come to call us to an eternal hope. Because the worse things get- heaven looks a whole lot better doesn’t it? The more trials, the more we put our hope and focus on eternal things which is exactly where God wants it to be. In Romans 8 Paul talks about … v18 I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed in us. So Paul says I’m going thru suffering but it is nothing compared to the glory God has for us. For creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. In v 22 for we ourselves grown inwardly as we walk this earth and encounter suffering along the way…. we find ourselves saying I can’t wait till heaven. Not in an I don’t care, escapism attitude; but in the hope of the Christian. II Cor 4:16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 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.
Earlier in this book Paul has described trials that have caused him even to despair of life; he felt tired of living and thought the weight of his trial would crush him. But he gets a hold of himself and he says no, we don’t give up, we don’t lose heart , our inner nature is being renewed day by day – even if your trial lasts all of your life- in the light of eternity it is so small? Even tho it seems like it will never end it will end? We have to remember that. If we think it is going to go on forever, we can lose hope. So those trials can help us focus on eternity. For the slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. For the things that are seen are temporary (transient- on the move) but the things that are unseen are eternal. Trials have a way of causing us to embrace eternal hope.
5. Trials enable us to help others
Who better to help someone going through a trial than someone who has been through it themselves? Anything that has really touched your heart, you will know some things and have compassion to help others. If you have lost a loved one, if you’ve gone bankrupt, divorce, illness, you can relate to that now. God allows everyone of us to go thru situations in our lives so that as we received comfort from God and he met us in that situation, we can share that comfort and encouragement with others
Ii cor 1. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
So God takes us thru seasons of different trials where we need His comfort and encourgement and we receive it… so that when we come out of that time we can help others around us. You might be going thru a very difficult time right now, but you take heart because God is going to use this in your life and in the lives of others and he is going to make you a blessing. He is blessing you – even if it is a difficult blessing to receive, so that you can bless others.
6. Trials produce endurance and strength
James 1.2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
(the idea endurance- you keep on going, you don’t quit) Let steadfastness have its full effect that you might be perfect (not talking about perfection as in sinless) but talking about maturity- that you might be full grown… with wisdom, perspective, understanding. Trials come so we are able to encourage people, and able to stand steady ourselves; God uses them to develop us.
As we come and respond in prayer, when we face a trial our initial question is almost always WHY? Why now, why me, why when I did this, why …. we’d be better off to change our question from why to what- God what are you trying to teach me; what are you wanting me to learn? God just show me and help me to make the most of this situation so I can come out of this strong, enduring, and steadfast.
Also realize that in our trials we are never alone. You are never alone. His is the friend that sticks closer than a brother and God is right there with you. He is going to help you, He is going to see you through and he wants to develop you. The wonderful thing about trials is if we go through them and seek God and walk close to Him, then what happens is the next time we go thru something similar we find ourselves at peace trusting in the Lord. When you are in a trial and you have doubt or fear or uncertainty or feel rejected, spend a moment in His presence and He can do a work to strengthen your heart... ask Him to strengthen you and help you understand if there is something He wants you to learn.
Is 26.3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.
(a sermon from John Lindell)